Hobart has won the contest to host the fifth Ashes Test, which will now be played as a day-night match, beating out Melbourne and Sydney.
Perth had been set to host the match, which will begin on 14 January, but due to Western Australia’s rigorous Covid border policy, it was denied the ability to do so.
The Test was put out to tender to all six states, and it was widely assumed that Melbourne would be the favourite to host the pink-ball match at the MCG.
However, the Bellerive Oval in Hobart, Tasmania, has been awarded its first-ever Ashes match, thanks to Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s support.
The hosts were humiliated by South Africa the last time they played here in 2016, owing in large part to an unstable pitch that has a reputation for being difficult for hitters.
Can Australia be able to wipe the monkey off their back and win the series 4-0, or will England build on their tie in Sydney last week?
With seven combined wickets, Scott Boland, the most popular man in the country, proved his six-for in Melbourne was no fluke, while Usman Khawaja stole the show with a twin tonne in his comeback to Test cricket.
Australia would have won the Fourth Test handily if it hadn’t rained, so it’s no surprise that Justin Langer’s team is the short-priced favourite coming into the series’ final match on Friday.
However, there are a few distinctions to be made in terms of selection. After suffering a tumble last week, Boland appears certain to miss the last Test, which means Jhye Richardson might make his comeback.
In the meantime, the middle order has more immediate concerns.
Travis Head is expected to return from COVID, but his entry may come at the expense of Khawaja, who is in excellent form.
The apparent option is to bat Khawaja at the top of the order in lieu of the struggling Marcus Harris, but that’s a short-term fix for a long-term issue.
In any case, Australia has shown throughout this series that they have the depth to overcome any challenges, and with England barely surviving last week, it’s difficult to imagine the hosts failing to win the last match of the series.
After taking care of David Warner in the first innings on his way to a massive five-wicket haul, the visitors will be cursing themselves for not playing Stuart Broad in Brisbane.
In Hobart, Broad will be heavily relied upon once more, although England must be heartened by Jack Leach’s return to form after taking four wickets on day four.
England, like Australia, is dealing with some selection issues.
Due to injuries to Jos Buttler and Jonny Bairstow, they are short at the keeper, allowing Sam Billings to join the team after completing his T20 duties with the Sydney Thunder.
In the Fourth Test, England’s batsmanship was much improved, but the spells with the ball in hand remained an issue.
Just when it appears like the visitors have the upper hand, they are dealt a major blow in the form of a century by the likes of Marnus Labuschagne or Usman Khawaja, partly due to missed opportunities and expensive errors.