Sir Ian Botham's 4th Ashes Test Preview: England Must Man Up In Melbourne


England have an uphill battle to prevent that 5-0 whitewash – Unibet now make it their 6/4 favourite for series scoreline and that price looks value to me at this stage. The momentum is definitely all in the Australians' favour, both on and off the field as the 4th Melbourne Test looms into view.

The latest ‘win’ for Australia is not just the resignation of Graeme Swann half way through the tour, but the negative fallout and news stories following his withdrawal from test cricket.

Firstly, let’s say a big thank you to Swann for his sterling service to this country over the years and let no one forget he finishes his Test career as the second highest wicket taker of any England spin bowler behind Derek Underwood, with 255 wickets in 60 tests.

Although plenty has been said over here and in the press back in England, only a player knows when it’s time to pack it all in, and for that reason we must respect his decision.

But Swann's departure has much wider ramifications. For instance, I’m sure the England selectors were thinking of replacing Matt Prior, whose form with the bat has seen Test scores of  0, 4, 0, 69, 8 and 26. From being the person who helped England turn the screw or helped them get out of a batting collapse, Prior is now just another underperforming tail ender. More worryingly, such form has now seemed to affect his ability behind the stumps as well. That said, he's a senior England Test player and the selectors will be mindful they need as many experienced players as possible to stop the rot come Boxing Day. He’ll stay, and they may bring in Monty Panesar ahead of new boy Scott Borthwick for similar reasons – experience – and I would agree with that.

And with Swann’s retirement has come more questions about the unity of the England dressing room –  whether or not there is a question mark over the togetherness of the squad, it’s given yet another positive to Australia, and they want this 5-0, make no mistake.

For me England have to man up. Individually they are no worse than their Australian counterparts, yet they have been destroyed this winter; they have simply just not played to their ability. We need our boys to play with real pride in this 4th test, there are some hard questions to be answered at Melbourne and we need to see some strong performances from a number of players if we are to get a result.

My head says Australia will win this, and Unibet's odds agree, going 4/6 on the home side. But my heart hopes for an England revival (England are 7/2 to win) with the draw at 16/5.

Ryan Harris has been bowling well and he’ll enjoy the conditions at the MCG – let’s take him to get more wickets than any other Australian bowler at 9/2, while I can’t see anyone scoring more runs that Michael Clarke – he’s 19/4 to get most runs in the match (both sides) with Unibet (he’s 3/1 to top the run scorers list in the first innings for Australia and that’s worth a bet too)

As far as England are concerned I will go for Ian Bell to hit most first innings runs (15/4) while, if Boyd Rankin gets the nod, he could claim most Aussie wickets in the first innings (7/2)

Bet on the 4th Ashes Test now.