It may not be pretty but gloves are off for the Boxing Day fight

The Australian angle: Hosts regain their confidence by daring to play trademark confrontational cricket

All roads lead to Melbourne. All cricketing calendars are set for Boxing Day. Poms and Aussies will descend in force upon the MCG eager to savour the fourth instalment of a compelling and constantly changing tale. Suddenly the series is alive again.

England might be displeased with their capitulation in Perth but the rest of the game will rejoice. Test cricket needed a thrilling Ashes series played on the Bulli soil which sits beneath the famous turf here. It has been a long time. Australia's comprehensive victory has rejuvenated the campaign. Overwhelmed in Adelaide, Ricky Ponting's team regrouped and rallied and set about England with intent.

But it's not over, not by a long chalk. It is a curiosity of cricket that teams of almost equal strength can secure decisive victories. That the series is evenly contested does not mean every match will be close. England have no need to panic. Ponting has survived his torment and now it's up to Andrew Strauss to prove his worth.

Certainly, I'd be foolish to attach too much weight to the Perth Test. Apart from anything else the hosts are peculiarly suited to these conditions and England particularly unused to them. No amount of talking can persuade a batsman to ignore deliveries landing short of a length who has spent his entire career attending to them. Likewise, young pace bowlers are inevitably excited by the sight of the ball rearing past nostrils. What else is the point of bowling fast? The warrior instinct is strong in youth. Cunning comes later.

As the Australians have learnt from England in this series, though, it is time for the visitors to return the favour. On the field the locals were slapping backs and shaking hands with the enthusiasm detected in the visitors from the outset. England's bonding had impressed them. Now the visitors need to consider the way their hosts set about taking wickets. Aggression does not mean pounding the middle of the pitch. It is a manner, not a method. England can also reflect on the way the Australian turned their fortunes around.

Afterwards the man of the mach award was given to Mitchell Johnson, whose spell on the second morning turned the contest on its head. Profligate in Brisbane, omitted in Adelaide, the enigmatic beanpole tore England's batting apart. He was a bowler transformed in a team revived. One day he is Prufrock, the next Hercules. Inspired, the Australians piled into the Poms and did not let go.

Moreover, Ponting's team dared to play Australian cricket. It is a culture, not a civilisation. A team needs a theme, an identity. Over the years Australia have played confronting cricket. It has not always been pretty and periodically it has been overdone but it reflects the national psyche and has been effective.

Realising his players had lost direction, and determined to go down fighting or not at all, the Tasmanian metaphorically took off the gloves and sought a bare-knuckle brawl. Before a ball had been bowled he made his intentions clear by insisting upon an all-pace attack. Selectors think about the long term but captains tend to focus on the next match.

Not that the selectors were unsympathetic. Already they had chosen a sharper, more aggressive squad. Conservatism had been banished. It was a high-risk strategy indicating a return to basics. Steven Smith might not be a better cricketer than Marcus North but he is more typically Australian. After all he has an eye for a punt, a leg-break and a hook.

England made the mistake of trying to reply in kind. As a result the team lost its rhythm. Previously composed, the layers became ragged and flustered. At one stage England were 78 for 0. Thereafter Andrew Strauss's side lost 20 wickets for 232 runs. Too many wickets were given away and too few maidens were delivered.

England played a bad game but that does not make them a poor side. Obviously, there is room for improvement. Graeme Swann was underbowled and Ian Bell bats too low in the order. Nor are Australia suddenly unbeatable. The track at MCG is a drop-in and likely to be slow. Can the remaining batsmen find their form? Will Ponting be fully fit?

England can and perhaps should win in Melbourne. First, though, they need to copy the Australians by getting back to their basics.

Sport
sportSo, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Arts and Entertainment
Dennis speaks to his French teacher
tvThe Boy in the Dress, TV review
News
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll as Agnes Brown in the 2014 Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special
tvCould Mrs Brown's Boys have taken lead for second year?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
The Plaza Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia was one of the 300 US cinemas screening
filmTim Walker settles down to watch the controversial gross-out satire
Sport
Alexis Sanchez missed a penalty before scoring the opening goal with a header at the back post
footballArsenal vs QPR match report
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
news
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz in Tim Burton's Big Eyes
film reviewThis is Tim Burton’s most intimate and subtle film for a decade
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
Arts and Entertainment
Madonna is not in Twitter's good books after describing her album leak as 'artistic rape and terrorism'
music14 more 'Rebel Heart' tracks leaked including Pharrell Williams collaboration
News
i100
Sport
Rooney celebrates with striker-partner Radamel Falcao after the pair combine to put United ahead
footballManchester United vs Newcastle match report
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all