Mitchell Johnson will look to terrorize the England batsmen yet again in the fifth Ashes Test. Reuters
A 5-0 clean sweep of England by Australia before the start of the Ashes series Down Under was thought to be impossible. Now, heading into the fifth and final Test match in Sydney, however, the whitewash is within grasp, just another few days of tough, unrelenting, in-your-face action that Australia have produced time and again over the past four games.
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The match is scheduled for a 5am IST start with live coverage on Star Sports 1 and Star Sports HD1. The Test can also be live streamed online HERE in India. US viewers click HERE for live streaming action, while viewers in the UK can live stream the action HERE. Australia viewers can watch the match HERE, while the action can be live streamed in Africa HERE.
"I don't think they're in a great place to be perfectly honest," Australia vice-captain Brad Haddin said of England's condition. "I think you could probably tell a bit of that in their fielding the other day. I think that's the first thing to go when you're struggling a bit. All the team stuff, all those little one percenters, they're the first thing to go when you're struggling as a team.
"The batting and bowling it's an individual thing but I think the team stuff looked like it was breaking a bit the other day. They can ask themselves those questions [if they can turn it around] and they're the only ones who can come up with the answers."
Alastair Cook has never been put under so much pressure, as a batsman or as a skipper, and Cook and the rest of the England side need to come up with answers somehow to salvage some pride.
While a 4-1 barracking is not something to write home about, it will at least save England from the ignominy of another Ashes series whitewash suffered in 2006-07. That loss, though, was against one of the best Test sides of all-time with the likes of Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath, Adam Gilchrist and Ricky Ponting, to name a few, in the lineup.
This is an Australian side that had just lost the Ashes in England, and have been constantly chopped and changed as the country looks to move on from the great era.
The alarming aspect about this Ashes series so far has been the margin of victories. Not one Test match has been nail-biting-don't-know-which-side-will-win close - the closest England came was in the 3rd Test in Adelaide when they eventually lost the match by 150 runs.
"It hurts for me, but it is what it is," skipper Cook said. "When you lose, the criticism is exaggerated, and hyped when you win, because that's the way the media work. So it's something I've been used to in my career so far. It'll happen to anyone who plays a lot of Test cricket. For me to say I'm 100 percent right would be wrong. I am proud of the way I've handled myself in this series, but I do know I've got a hell of a lot to learn as a player and as a captain.
England captain Alastair Cook and Ian Bell wear pink caps as part of promotion for a charity before a team training session at the Sydney Cricket
Ground, January 1. Reuters
"When you lose, you start stripping back everything, don't you. You start looking at everything that's gone wrong, every little aspect you think you can improve on. In one way, you have to go through that to see where you are as a team, as a person individually. So there's a lot of thinking -- and a hell of a lot of action to do after this Test match.
"It's hard. Everyone says it's a fresh start, and of course it is. But when you're restrained to 17 players in a squad... There's a lot of time for that thing afterwards. But we've got to get ourselves ready for a battle. In Melbourne for two-and-a-half days we played some pretty good cricket and we competed pretty well.
"We got ourselves in a good position but we didn't continue that and a lot of credit to Australia. They sniffed a chance and really jumped in. When your confidence is high like that, that's what happens."
Team news: Australia: Players have called for the side to name the same 11 for the fifth straight Test match, but niggles to Shane Watson and Ryan Harris might put paid to those hopes. If Watson is ruled out, James Faulkner might come in with Nathan Coulter-Nile waiting in the wings to replace Harris.
"I think it would be extremely romantic," Clarke said when asked if he could field the same XI for the entire Ashes series. "But I think you've got to pick the best 11 players to help you have success in the conditions you're playing.
"If conditions turn out to be similar to what they have been in the past four Test matches then I think selectors will go that way. But we certainly need to pick our best team to win this Test match."
England: Plenty of changes are afoot, with Cook and Andy Flower likely to give three players their debuts in the final Test at the SCG. Leg-spinning all-rounder Scott Borthwick is in line for a call-up after Monty Panesar suffered a calf injury in training, while fast bowler Boyd Rankin could be given an opportunity at the expense of he-just-does-not-have-enough-pace-or-movement-to-trouble-batsmen-on-Australian-pitches Tim Bresnan.
The third change could be the inclusion of Gary Ballance, with Michael Carberry possibly sitting out, and Joe Root moving further up the order to opening the batting with Cook.
Jonny Bairstow, though, is likely to be retained as the wicketkeeper after Cook hinted as much amidst calls for a recall for Matt Prior.
Expected lineups: Australia: Chris Rogers, David Warner, Shane Watson, Michael Clarke (capt), Steven Smith, George Bailey, Brad Haddin (wk), Mitchell Johnson, Peter Siddle, Ryan Harris, Nathan Lyon.
England: Alastair Cook, Joe Root, Ian Bell, Kevin Pietersen, Gary Ballance, Ben Stokes , Jonny Bairstow, Scott Borthwick, Stuart Broad, James Anderson, Boyd Rankin.
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