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News

Test Championship bid adds to Australia's Ashes whitewash focus

Over-rates cost them last time and they do not want to let any points slip away

Andrew McGlashan
Andrew McGlashan
22-Dec-2021
The motivation of making amends for missing this year's World Test Championship final is an added driving force behind Australia's push for an Ashes whitewash after they took a 2-0 series lead.
Convincing victories in Brisbane and Adelaide mean that they can retain the Ashes with victory in Melbourne during the Boxing Day Test which would be a third consecutive success in a home series with England having not won a game since Sydney in 2010-11.
The 2017-18 fixture at the MCG is the only one of the last 12 Ashes Tests in Australia that England have not lost courtesy of Alastair Cook's double century on an awful pitch. Since then the surface has been rejuvenated and a recent Sheffield Shield pitch was rated by those who took part as one of the best the MCG had produced with pace, bounce and movement.
In their previous dominant scorelines, Australia's victories achieved after the Ashes had been secured widened the gap and helped their ranking, but now with the World Test Championship points on offer any further wins could be crucial as was evidenced by Australia narrowly missing the final in the previous cycle.
"That's what the Test Championship has brought in, it's not just about winning the series you are currently playing but you are playing for something bigger than that as well," Marnus Labuschagne said.
Ultimately it was an over-rate fine in last season's MCG Test against India which cost Australia a spot in the WTC final, but had they secured another win along the way they would also have qualified. That could have been achieved against India at the SCG, where the tourists battled to a draw, or the series-decider at Brisbane. Going further back there was the loss at The Oval in the 2019 Ashes where England leveled the series and, of course, the famous Headingley result.
"We had heaps of other opportunities that we could have made that game," Labuschagne said. "Watching that final, I was in England, it was a great spectacle and awesome to watch. I think it's important for us to take the Test Championship really seriously and it's something we want to win. It certainly hurt me last time sitting and watching."
Australia are currently second in the WTC table having played just two Tests of the latest cycle. Their overseas portion of the competition will be demanding with tours of Pakistan, Sri Lanka and India while next summer's home schedule involves West Indies and South Africa. Regardless of the opposition, they are determined not to be caught out by the same mistake.
"Over-rates really shouldn't be that big of a thing but we are always just trying to make sure we are getting through the overs and we learn our lesson from the [last] instance," Labuschagne said. "Would be silly of us not to have learnt from that experience then all of a sudden find ourselves in a similar situation in 12-24 months time."
England, who are languishing at seventh, have already been docked eight points for their over-rate at the Gabba.
Labuschagne also has personal motivation heading into Boxing Day as he looks for a maiden Test century at the MCG with a high score in his two outings of 63. In a warning to England, despite his first-innings century in Adelaide and match tally of 154 runs he was still not satisfied with his contribution.
"Even though I scored runs this game I'm still disappointed I didn't go and make a really big score and really shut the game out, especially after being dropped and getting a chance off a no-ball," he said. "There's a lot for me to learn from [Adelaide] and take into Boxing Day and make sure if I get to a hundred make it a really big score."

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo