Australia v England - third Test, Perth, 16th-20th December, 02:30 GMT start
Australia, for the first time in recent memory, are looking very vulnerable with many more questions being posed than answers given. After the reality checks at Brisbane and Adelaide, now trailing 1-0 in the Ashes series, they meet an in-form England team at Perth on Thursday for the third Test.
Venue: The WACA is a happy hunting ground for the Australians with a superior record of 21 wins out of 37 Tests played here. Once feared by the batsman for its bounce and pace the strip has mellowed down over the years. There will be pressure on the curator to produce a pitch which will suit the hosts as the calculations went horribly wrong for Australia at the Gabba and the Adelaide Oval. Curator Cameron Sutherland would be keen to restore the pace and bounce again .One thing remains constant though - that is the bounce.
England would like to wrap up the Perth Test and retain the urn to celebrate Christmas here. The England camp look to ring a singular change with Chris Tremlett likely to pip Ajmal Shahzad and Tim Bresnan for the spot vacated by Stuart Broad while James Anderson will rejoin the team after his trip to England for the birth of his second child.
England's batting has clicked remarkably so far. Their batsmen, with the exception of Paul Collingwood, have all registered three figures on the tour so far.
Alastair Cook’s application has been phenomenal, cutting out the high-risk shots and getting England off to stable starts alongside skipper Andrew Strauss.
Jonathan Trott took his time to grind the opposition bowlers but with Kevin Pietersen roaring back into form, England will look to continue scoring big runs to give maximum cushion to the bowlers.
Graeme Swann took five wickets against Australia at the Adelaide Oval to lead England to an innings-and-71-run win, while Anderson has adapted to bowling with the Kookaburra bowl well combining efficiently with the fast-learning Steven Finn.
England will have to be cautious to be smugly satisfied with their current position; One suicidal session is enough to turn the match on its head and Australia sniff those moments better than most teams in the world
Watch out for: Chris Tremlett, the 6ft 7 in tall bowler, much improved now, will be in line to find his name in the playing 11. The WACA deck is likely to offer pace and bounce and that makes Chris Tremlett a necessity from an England perspective.
Talk of a return of Shane Warne to the bowling crease have been put to rest by selector Greg Chappell. Phil Hughes is set to open the batting replacing injured Simon Katich alongside Shane Watson and their left and right combination could unsettle the England fast men.
Australia are just getting pulled in deeper abyss with every match and look a pale shadow of the side they were a couple of seasons back. Rookie Michael Beer, who has shot into limelight from obscurity at the expense of Xavier Doherty and Nathan Hauritz, has caught the imagination of the commentators and public.
This is the last dice thrown by the selectors in desperation but Beer will need to take the course of former Australia spinner Peter Taylor who was handed a Baggy Green 24 seasons back to come up with a match winning performance.
Vice captain Michael Clarke seemed to have rediscovered his touch in the second innings at Adelaide with his 80, while Michael Hussey has answered questions lingering over his form with the bat, with Shane Watson getting starts during the series.
Better news for Australia comes with a look at their record here against England. They have triumphed in the last five, and seven out of 11 in all. England have won here only once, back in 1978 against an under-strength side.
The team composition has been an issue of debate with too much chopping, the latest recruit being Michael Beer, with only a handful of first class games. While Mitchell Johnson, the left armer, is back in the mix, after being “rested” for the Adelaide Test, given his formidable record at the WACA, with career best 8for 61 against South Africa.
Watch out for:
Michael Beer: Though England have played him in the winning cause at South Australia, he took five wickets. Still an unknown entity, Australia will try to unleash the unheralded Beer.
Shane Watson: The most improved batsman since his promotion to open the innings in the last Ashes. He will be keen to make a big contribution, with two fifties to show already in this series.
Ricky Ponting: The form of Ricky Ponting with the bat is central to Australia’s fortunes in the Perth test. Though there is nothing to suggest that he is woefully out of touch during his unbeaten 51 against the Englishmen at Gabba, but the pressure is enormous on him to play a captain’s innings at Perth.
© Cricket World 2010