Ashes 2009: England Have It All To Do At The Oval
The fallout from England's heavy fourth Test defeat by Australia at Headingley continues with captain Andrew Strauss urging his side not to panic, Team Director Andy Flower hinting at changes to the side, national selector Geoff Miller defending the decision not to play Andrew Flintoff and Robert Key and Mark Ramprakash have emerged as possible replacements for the out of form Ravi Bopara.
Soon after the match, Flower hinted that changes could be made for the fifth and final Test at The Oval, starting on 20th August, which England must win to regain the Ashes.
"We have to think about the middle order," he said. "We've got one ton in this series - Andrew Strauss is holding us together."
Ravi Bopara, Ian Bell and Paul Collingwood managed just 16 runs between them in the third Test, which England lost by an innings and 80 runs and all three should have been released to play in the latest round of LV County Championship matches.
Also in county action this week will be potential replacements Michael Carberry (Hampshire), Jonathan Trott (Warwickshire), Mark Ramprakash (Surrey) and Robert Key (Kent) as will outside bets Joe Denly (Kent), Stephen Moore (Worcestershire) and James Hildreth (Somerset).
Key has emerged as the favourite amongst media pundits and there has even been talk of a return from Marcus Trescothick, the Somerset opener who has made himself retired from international cricket.
Should Ramprakash get the nod, it would mark one of the most extraordinary comebacks to international cricket but a precedent has been set in previous years with Colin Cowdrey and Brian Close amongst those recalled by England as much for their experience as their form and talent.
Andrew Flintoff was an obvious absentee at Headingley, England badly missing their premier strike bowler, and his agent has this morning revealed that the all-rounder felt he was fit to play, but was overlooked by England.
He is set to undergo another scan on his injured knee, the results of which will go partway to determining his availability for The Oval.
"We have to find out the fitness of Freddie and where he is at and then obviously the balance of the side is an issue as well," Strauss told the England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB) website (www.ecb.co.uk).
"Those are all issues that we have to throw into the melting pot and make sure we're clear on which direction we need to go in come that final Test match," he added.
"All I would say is it's time for calm reflection and selection should be based in a calm, reflective manner,"
Miller, meanwhile, defended the decision not to play Flintoff.
"We had to guarantee that Fred could do the job required to bowl the overs," Miller told BBC Radio.
"We'd been monitoring his injury day by day and the selectors felt that it was better that he didn't play in that game.
"Yes, he might have thought he was fit to do a certain job but we had to work out whether he'd be fit to do a constant job, meaning bowl the amount of overs required to get the 20 wickets."
The outcome at Headingley means that Australia simply need to draw to retain the Ashes, and they now have selection problems of a different kind - which of four in-form pace bowlers to leave out should Nathan Hauritz return and the potential recall of Brett Lee.
That, however, looks unlikely given a timely return to form for Mitchell Johnson and consistent performances from Peter Siddle, Ben Hilfenhaus and Stuart Clark.
© Cricket World 2009