Although England put up more of a fight at Melbourne than they had in the rest of the series but were ultimately thwarted by the dud of a pitch and the on-going brilliance of Steven Smith. The draw at Melbourne means England have avoided the ignominy of a whitewash but head into the final Test as underdogs.

Australia’s recent record at the Sydney Cricket Ground is ruthless – they haven’t been beaten there since 2012 although England have won there twice in their last five visits to the iconic ground.

Weather, pitch and conditions

The weather forecast for Sydney for the next few days is for it to be mostly dry if cloudy with the temperature in the mid 20s.

The Sydney pitch should offer far better entertainment than the pudding pitch at the MCG. The SCG have resisted the urge to move to drop-in pitches so it’s a little easier to predict what will be in store. There should be enough in the pitch for both seamers and spinners for it to be more of a contest than the last Test match and with the weather mostly set fair expect there to be a result.

The bowlers

The series leading wicket taker Mitchell Starc has recovered from the bruised heel which saw him miss the Boxing Day Test and although Australia are mindful of managing his workload, particularly with a gruelling tour of South Africa looming, both they and he won’t want him to miss out on lifting the urn after a victory on his home ground.

If he doesn’t pass a late fitness test, it will be Jackson Bird who keeps his place in the team which England won’t mind after the friendly paced deliveries he served up at the MCG.

The SCG, whilst not quite as much a spinning track in recent times as it has been in the past, should still provide some assistance for the spinners. The bounce and purchase might make Nathan Lyon worth a bet to be top Australian wicket taker at .

England look set to make a big change to their line-up by bringing in debutant leg spinner Mason Crane to either replace the struggling Moeen Ali or seamer Tom Curran if they opt for two spinners. Crane is very young and inexperienced and making your Test debut in an Ashes Test is quite an ask but the young Hampshire leggie clearly has enough about him to have attracted the attentions of New South Wales to be selected for a Sheffield Shield match.

After a quiet series, Stuart Broad bowled beautifully at Melbourne and this may be a return to form for him to top off the series but it’s worth a look at James Anderson at to be England’s leading wicket taker in the match. He has a decent record at the SCG having taken 13 wickets at 27 each in three Tests he has played at the ground.

The batsmen

Once again, It’s hard to look past Steve Smith to be their leading run scorer, he is in the form of his life and was one of few who adapted to the slowness of the MCG pitch demonstrating his ability to play on whatever surface is presented to him. This is his home ground on which he averages 66.42. Smith is to be Australia’s top run scorer although there may be better value in David Warner at who should enjoy the Sydney pitch more than the Melbourne one although he showed uncharacteristic determination in his first innings of 86 off 227 deliveries.

After a poor run of form, Alastair Cook is back with a bang and history tells us that after a poor trot he tends to go on a run of prolific scoring before another dip in form. Jonny Bairstow missed out at Melbourne but has looked confident at the crease since being moved up the order – he’s at to be England’s top scorer.

Odds are correct at the time of posting

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