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ENGLAND'S hopes of restoring some pride to their cricket in the Fourth Test were today lifted by news that Australian paceman-in-chief Glenn McGrath could join Jason Gillespie on the sidelines for the Boxing Day encounter.

Gillespie, expected to pip Colin Miller for a starting place having missed out for the 205-run victory at Adelaide, was ruled out yesterday with a right knee problem which forced the Australian selectors to call up untried Matt Nicholson because of injur ies to Paul Reiffel and Michael Kasprowicz.

After completing training today, captain Mark Taylor also revealed that McGrath, who has 16 wickets from the opening three Tests, may also be out with a mystery virus which first affected him on the final day of the last Test.

Checked out

Taylor explained: "He's had a week off and he's feeling a lot better, but he still wants to see someone about it because the harder he works the more he feels something in his chest.

"He's gone to get that checked out today. It's more precautionary than anything - he could have bowled today in the nets without too much of a problem."

But either with or without McGrath, Taylor will not want his side to ease off despite having already won the Ashes and he has already underlined the importance of following up with another victory at the MCG to wrap up the series.

"The series is still alive, and if we lose here or don't play well and lose here it will mean us going to Sydney at new year with a chance of not winning the series and I don't want that to happen," stressed Taylor.

"I think our performances in the first three Tests have shown we are the better side, and none of the blokes will want anything less than victory here - so I'm sure motivation won't be a problem on Boxing Day."

Taylor will certainly have no problem motivating 24-year-old Nicholson if he is given his Test debut less than a year after he had considered quitting the game with a fatigue syndrome which left him shattered every time he took the field.

Nicholson, who has played just eight first-class games, heard the news of his shock call-up while he was sitting on a plane at Perth airport ready for the flight to Sydney to visit his parents for Christmas. …