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Australia batsmen could go large before MCG lunch

England struggle to contain Baggy Green middle order

Australia skipper Steve Smith is not shy to attack short-pitched bowling
1 of 1

BT Sport 1, 11.30pm Tuesday

Story of day one

Australia are 4-9 to go 4-0 up in the Ashes series after making 244-3 on day one in Melbourne.

Baggy Greens skipper Steve Smith opted to bat after winning his first toss of the series and his openers were unparted on 102 at lunch at a packed MCG with David Warner motoring to 85.

However, after the first interval, England's quick bowlers managed to get reverse swing off a scratchy pitch and as the runs dried up, wickets followed.

Cameron Bancroft was trapped in front by Chris Woakes for a painstaking 26, while Warner (103) was caught-behind off James Anderson. Warner would have been out for 99 caught at mid-on to give debutant Tom Curran a notable first scalp but for an over-step no ball.

Smith and Usman Khawaja steadied the Aussie ship before tea but Khawaja (17) nicked off to Stuart Broad shortly afterwards so Joe Root and the Three Lions would have been hopeful of more in-roads.

But after successive lbw shouts from Broad against Shaun Marsh, as has been the series narrative, nothing much more happened for the away attack including a long three overs with the second new ball.

At stumps, Smith was a serene 65, with Marsh on 31, and the draw and England win have been eased to 13-5 and 10-1. All the odds-against about a 5-0 Australia series success has gone.

Day two best bet

England will be hopeful that a forecast of early morning cloud cover means they can get regular swing with their almost new ball and then more reverse in the afternoon but punters who followed James Milton's ante-post match tips of a high score of 146 or more and Steve Smith to be man of the match must be content.

Australia's last three first-innings totals at the MCG have been 624-8d, 551-3d and 530 and all bookmakers have their in-running Baggy Green two-way first-innings total lines chalked up at the 500 mark. Smith is now evens with bet365 to be man of the match and 8-5 with the firm to score 161 or more. Ladbrokes are offering 5-1 about about back-to-back Smith double tons after his 239 in Perth. He also hit 215 at Lord's in 2015.

Smith's last five scores at the MCG have been 165 not out, 70 not out, 134 not out, 14 and 192 and he will be expecting more support, if he gets going again, from the Marsh brothers, Tim Paine and Pat Cummins. Shaun Marsh made 126 not out in Adelaide, Mitchell Marsh cracked 181 at the Waca and Paine and Cummins have driven England crazy with a combined total of 368 runs.

Sky Bet have a range of first session specials and the one that appeals most is any batsman to hit a six at 5-2.

If England do not make early in-roads then they are likely to try to unsettle Smith and Shaun Marsh with short-pitched bowling, using the protection of the big MCG square boundaries. However, neither man is afraid to hook and pull, especially when set and ticking over tidily. And if they are set, they will look to aerially attack the still under-performing Moeen Ali and back-up spinners Root and Dawid Malan too.

If the Three Lions do make headway with the ball then the Baggy Green lower-middle order are unlikely to wait around to be chipped out. Mitchell Marsh didn't clear the ropes in Perth but certainly knows how to open his arms and swing hard, while Cummins, Paine and even Nathan Lyon have smacked maximums in the series.

Even if England do not skittle Australia, they are likely to be batting before stumps on day two with Smith declaring in order to ramp up the pressure.

And with Alastair Cook struggling for form and latest partner Mark Stoneman still susceptible to quality fast bowling a wager that the first Three Lions wicket falls before 24 is tempting.

However, since Cook and Andrew Strauss put on 159 in the 2010 Boxing Day Test, three of the five away opening stands at the MCG have been 38 or more including a 2013 Cook-Michael Carberry combination.

Recommendation
Any Australia batsman to hit a six in first session of day two
1pt 5-2 Sky Bet   

Already advised by James Milton
Highest individual score over 145.5
4pts 5-6 bet365
J Vince to score over 23.5 first-innings runs
3pts 5-6 Hills
S Smith man of the match
1pt 6-1 Sky Bet


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If the Three Lions do make headway with the ball then the Baggy Green lower-middle order are unlikely to wait around to be chipped out
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