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The Ashes: Fourth Test preview

All three Ashes Test matches completed in the current series have been thrillers and an England victory at Headingley has given Australia plenty to think about heading into the fourth Test at Old Trafford, Manchester.

The hosts' three-wicket win in Leeds made the series score 2-1 in favour of the Baggy Greens, who do still know that avoiding defeat in either of the last two Tests will see them retain the Ashes.

However, with all the matches so closely-fought, it is conceivable that either side could currently be sat 3-0 up and with a series triumph already in the bag.

WhatEngland v Australia
WhereOld Trafford, Manchester
WhenWednesday 19th - Sunday 23rd July, 2023
How to watchChannel 9
OddsEngland 2.30, Draw 4.33, Australia 2.60

Old Trafford holds good memories

Four years ago Australia made sure of retaining the Ashes by romping to a 185-run victory in the fourth Test of that series, inspired by 211 and 82 from Steve Smith and seven wickets in the match from current captain Pat Cummins.

Indeed, the Baggy Greens have not tasted defeat in Manchester since way back in 1981 - during the famous Botham's Ashes series - winning four times and drawing on another three occasions since then.

The draw this time around is priced at 4.33 and may come into play if the current unsettled weather continues in the north-west of England, even if both sides seem hell bent on pushing all-out for wins every time they take to the field.

England know they simply have to win to keep alive their hopes of regaining the Ashes and are 2.30 to do so, having confirmed that Old Trafford favourite James Anderson will return to their side at the expense of fellow seamer Ollie Robinson.

All-rounders the Aussie quandary

With Cameron Green ruled out by a hamstring niggle for the third Test at Headingley, fellow all-rounder Mitch Marsh came in and made a big impact.

His 118 in the first innings looked at one point like being the decisive innings of the match and means that all three of his Test centuries to date have been made against England - with Marsh 6.50 to be Team - Top Batter in the first innings at Old Trafford.

He is unlikely to be dropped after that effort in Leeds and, with Green fit again, that leaves skipper Cummins with a tricky balancing act to strike.

There have been suggestions that opener David Warner could be jettisoned after another double failure at the hands of Stuart Broad, meaning Green could slot in at the top of the order.

That seems a little unlikely, although one change in the bowling attack is expected, with Scott Boland set to make way for Josh Hazlewood.

Off-spinner Todd Murphy is another who could make way for the recall for Green, but would Australia risk going into such a crucial game without a frontline spinner?

It's all for Cummins and head coach Andrew McDonald to decide, while the former will be eager to build on having taken 15 wickets in the series already and he is 11.00 to be named as Player of the Match in Manchester.

Heralded batters yet to deliver

Prior to the series much was made of the success that batters Smith and Marnus Labuschagne had previously enjoyed against England, but so far that pair have passed 50 just once in 12 innings between them in the series.

That lack of runs has been made up for by Usman Khawaja at the top of the order, while Travis Head has been the most productive of the middle-order, making 266 runs at an average of 44.33, including three half-centuries from six knocks.

The left-hander’s attacking approach, even when coming in with Australia struggling, has worked well so far and, having started his summer in England with a superb century in the World Test Championship final win over India, he will want to go big at Old Trafford.

Head is 9.50 to be Top 1st Innings Batter in Manchester, while England ace Joe Root is priced at 6.00 in the same market.

Root clearly enjoys conditions at Old Trafford, having made 790 runs at 60.76 in ten previous Test appearances at the ground, including a career-best 254 against Pakistan in July 2016.

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