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High-flying Australia out to regain the Ashes

Photograph: Dave Hunt/EPA

The atmosphere in the England and Australian setups was perfectly summed up two days out from the Boxing day test. England had all the 11 players that will walk out to the middle on the 26th of December training hard even though it was an optional training session, not like they could afford to miss one. The Australian players meanwhile looked more relaxed as you would expect from a side that is 2-0 up in a series.

It has reached a stage of desperation for England. Pretty much everything has gone horribly wrong for them since the start of the tour. After a 275 run loss in the 2nd test, Chris Silverwood has understandably ringed in the changes.

The England team have made four changes to their side with Crawley, Bairstow, Leach and Mark Wood coming in. Rory Burns has faced the axe after struggling in the first two tests. He has been replaced by Zak Crawley, whose form isn't to write home about averaging 11 this year compared to Burns's 27 but he is the only opener England have got.

Crawley also averages just 20 as an opener and 38 batting at No. 3. Ollie Pope's misery in Australia has likely ended as he has been replaced by Bairstow at No.6, who hasn't made a half-century in 24 innings. Jos Buttler will still keep the gloves after a horror display in Adelaide.

There are two changes in the bowling department with Jack Leach and Mark Wood coming in for Stuart Broad and Chris Woakes. Woakes's exclusion was on expected lines as he is averaging 54.28 away from home and 55.61 in Australia.

Stuart Broad was the surprising omission after being completely ineffective in the last game. Mark Wood has returned to the side and his pace will bring variety to this attack which England seriously missed in the last game. Jack Leach has been given another opportunity after being thrashed for 102 runs in his 13 overs in the first test and Joe Root wouldn't want a repeat of it.

Australia will be in front of 70,000 adoring fans at the opening day of the MCG test match. They have made some changes to their side too with Scott Boland and skipper Pat Cummins returning to the side. 32-year Scott Boland will be making his debut on his home ground.

Cummins has praised the Victorian fast bowler who has a good record at the MCG.

"We earmarked him as a chance for here and the SCG in particular, we think his record is really well suited," said Cummins on Saturday (December 25). "His record speaks for itself here in domestic cricket. Home ground, having someone fresh like him who can perform straightaway were the big factors. He's really excited obviously - it's a dream for him to wear the Baggy Green, packed MCG on Boxing Day, it doesn't get any better."

Marcus Harris will get another go in the 3rd test and even Justin Langer spent most of yesterday's training session with the under-fire opener. The Australian coach has backed Harris to come good at his home ground.

“He’ll play in the test, no worries about that,” Langer told Australian Associated Press on Thursday, referring to Harris. “This is his home ground. He’s played a lot at the MCG. He hasn’t made the runs he’d like to so far, but he dominates domestic cricket. For him and for us we’re hoping he plays well and gets a good partnership with Davey Warner.”

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