Third Test preview: Australia v England


For England, it has historically not been fun to play at the WACA, and already trailing Australia two-nil going into the third Test on Friday, they will need all their fortitude to avoid losing the urn.

For England, it has historically not been fun to play at the WACA, and already trailing Australia two-nil going into the third Test on Friday, they will need all their fortitude to avoid losing the urn.

Of the 10 Tests England have played against the Aussies in Perth, they've lost seven, drawn two and won one. That single victory occurred in 1978, and since then the venue has seen mostly home triumphs, though the most recent was a loss to South Africa.

Added to this, England go into the game on the back of two heavy defeats in Brisbane and Adelaide, so their confidence will be low, despite "Them's fightin' words" from skipper Alastair Cook, who will play his 100th Test.

Also brining up three figures is home skipper Michael Clarke, so both teams will be playing their hardest to give their captain a winning milestone match. On the plus side for England, Clarke only averages 37 here, but on the down side, Cook's not in great nick.

Aside from the dual milestones, most of the chat leading up to the match has been about Australia's bowling attack, with veteran Ryan Harris a doubt with a knee niggle and James Faulkner ruled out with a fractured thumb.

While Faulkner's injury on Thursday all but ensured Nathan Lyon's inclusion despite the pitch suiting pace, Harris' injury was not as straight forward. Clarke delayed announcing the team, saying they would wait until the toss to see how Harris fared.

If Harris is ruled out, leaving Mitchell Johnson and Peter Siddle as the spearheads, this could give a chance to Doug Bollinger or Nathan Coulter-Nile, who had been put on stand by for just such an event, even before the second Test.

As for England, their experiment of moving Joe Root up the order to three as Jonathan Trott's replacement did not work as well as they'd have liked, though he's likely to stay there after a solid effort in the second innings in Adelaide.

The main question is whether Ben Stokes, who made his debut at the Oval, will be retained at six, or whether Jonny Bairstow or Gary Ballance will be given the slot. Both batsmen have done well in warm-up and EPP games recently.

Another question surrounds fast bowler Steve Finn, who has not enjoyed good form recently and did not play in the first two games, leaving the selectors to look at either Chris Tremlett or Tim Bresnan as options if they drop Stokes.

They could also replace either Graeme Swann or Monty Panesar, or both, given the traditional lack of spin at the venue. Whatever they do, England need a bowling attack that can take all 20 wickets for far less runs than they have been conceding.

<b>Key Men</b><br>For the home side, <b>Mitchell Johnson</b> has an incredible record in Perth, and the last time he played here he took nine wickets, against England in 2010. He has 17 wickets so far in the series, and England's batsmen are rattled.

England really, really need <b>Kevin Pietersen</b> to come to the party. He scored only one fifty so far in the series, and the last time he played in Perth he got a duck and three. But he is their pressure player, and never has the heat been this intense.

<b>Last Five Head-To-Head Results</b><br>2013: Second Test: Australia won by 218 runs in Adelaide<br>2013:First Test: Australia won by 381 runs in Brisbane<br>2013: Fifth Test: Match drawn at The Oval<br>2013: Fourth Test: England won by 74 runs at Riverside Ground, Chester-le-Street<br>2013: Third Test: Match drawn at Old Trafford, Manchester

<b>Prediction</b><br>Given England's last six matches here ended in defeat, and the one before that was a draw, we're going to say that the Aussies will keep the momentum going and prevent a Three Lions win. There's no rain on the forecast.

<b>Squads</b><br><i>Australia:</i> Chris Rogers, David Warner, Shane Watson, Michael Clarke, Steve Smith, George Bailey, Brad Haddin, Mitchell Johnson, Peter Siddle, Ryan Harris, Nathan Lyon, (Doug Bollinger and Nathan Coulter-Nile on stand-by).

<i>England:</i> Alastair Cook, Matt Prior, James Anderson, Jonny Bairstow, Gary Ballance, Ian Bell, Stuart Broad, Michael Carberry, Steve Finn, Monty Panesar, Kevin Pietersen, Boyd Rankin, Joe Root, Ben Stokes, Graeme Swann, Chris Tremlett, Tim Bresnan.

<b>Dates:</b> 13 to 17 December<br><b>Morning session:</b> 10:30-12:30 (02:30-04:30 GMT)<br><b>Afternoon session:</b> 13:10-15:10 (05:10-07:10 GMT)<br><b>Evening session:</b> 15:30-17:30 (07:30-09:30 GMT)<br><b>On-field umpires:</b> Marais Erasmus and Billy Bowden<br><b>Third umpire:</b> Tony Hill<br><b>Match referee:</b> Jeff Crowe