Only one team has come back from 2-0 down to win the Ashes and that was an Australian side that boasted legend Don Bradman in its ranks. Add to that the fact that England have lost their past six Test matches in western Australia by massive margins and have only won once in their last 12 attempts at the Waca, the series looks to be all but over.The last thing England’s chastened batting line-up needs is the prospect of facing Mitchell Johnson on one of the fastest surfaces in the world. They struggled badly on a perfect Adelaide pitch and Johnson will be licking his lips at the prospect of steamrollering Australia to another victory and the Ashes urn.
Will they try and fight fire with fire and bring in one of the big men picked to rough up the Aussies? With Chris Tremlett looking a shadow of the bowler who proved so effective last time Down Under and Steven Finn seemingly going backwards perhaps the door is open for Boyd Rankin to make his Test debut in Perth. However, his record of three wickets in five innings on tour so far hardly inspires confidence. Tim Bresnan may be seen as a safer pair of hands but Australia, who have already announced an unchanged team for Perth, won’t be losing any sleep over England’s possible attack. As for the batting line-up, there were a few signs of progress in the second inning at Adelaide, not least Joe Root’s impressive 87 and Matt Prior’s 69, but England yet again failed to get past 400 in this Test. Geoff Boycott reckons half of the dismissals of England’s top seven in the series have been down to bad shots rather than good bowling. If this continues in Perth, the Ashes will be lost and Australia will start to set their sights on a repeat of the 2006/07 whitewash.
Despite all the talk about pace at the Waca, spin still has a part to play in Perth. Nathan Lyon took three wickets on day one of last year’s Test against South Africa and Monty Panesar has good memories of the ground, securing five dismissals on England’s disastrous 2006/07 tour. The sea breeze – known as the Freemantle Doctor – can aid the off spinners, but it will be pace that does the real damage here. This means England will have to drop one of Swann or Panesar. Swann has taken just four wickets for 397 runs in the series so far and has offered only 13 runs with the bat. Both statistics are extremely poor by his standards and put his place in the side in real jeopardy, something that seemed unthinkable at the start of the series. Too many of England’s old guard are seriously out-of-form and Swann could be the first casualty if selectors decide that Monty is a safer bet.
England’s selection issues may be a sign of things to come, with bigger questions looming on the horizon. Too many players have passed their best. James Anderson, Swann, Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen and Prior have been the backbone of England’s successes in recent years but they all look to be declining – some faster than others. From the others who started in Adelaide, Ian Bell, Michael Carberry and Panesar are all the wrong side of 30 meaning the Ashes side of 2015 will look very different to this one. That might not be a bad thing with the way this current side is performing but is the quality there to replace this successful group? England only have to look at the problems Australia faced when their recent all-conquering side started to dismantle a few years ago. This team does not compare in quality to that magnificent crop of Aussie talent but the journey back to the top may be just as long and painful.
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BIOGRAPHY: Ethan Hazard
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