August 19, 2009

Australia must play four seamers

Do England have a chance at The Oval? Of course they do, but I'd rather be in the visiting dressing rooms on Thursday

So here we are, the final game and all Australia need to do to grab the Ashes is draw at The Oval. England were found wanting in the fourth Test, when everything clicked for the tourists in Leeds, but do they have a chance? Of course they do, but I'd rather be in the visiting dressing rooms on Thursday.

It's hard to see much improvement for Australia on their Headingley display - they were just so good in all departments. I particularly enjoyed watching the work of the bowlers and if the attack repeats that performance the series will be decided. England's only chance is if they bat first, build a big total and then knock Australia over quickly. It will be tough though because The Oval is a great batting ground - did I mention I've made a first-class century here for Yorkshire?

The strangest thing about Australia and this ground is they don't have a very good record here, with only six wins in 34 Tests. It is the most Australian-like wicket in England: fast, good bounce and carry, an excellent pitch. Australia's big dilemma, their only dilemma, is the choice between a fourth seamer and a spinner. That's it, which is a pretty good position to be in for such a crucial game.

For me, it's extremely difficult to change the team after the fourth Test result, so expect to see Stuart Clark involved as the fourth quick. I don't like going into a match without a specialist slow bowler, but spin hasn't played much of a part in the whole series, ruling out Nathan Hauritz.

That also means no spot for Brett Lee. Time has been against him in this series. In previous decades a side injury would have meant missing a couple of Tests, but because of the modern itinerary it's rubbed Brett out for a whole campaign. I feel for him, I really do, but I just can't see how he can come in ahead of Siddle, Johnson, Hilfenhaus or Clark.

I really have no idea what England are going to decide on with their 14-man squad. Jonathan Trott and Andrew Flintoff will come into the XI, with Ian Bell and Paul Collingwood probably shuffling up a spot, but if Australia can get through the opening pair of Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook, who are classy players, they can exploit the middle order bit by bit.

England have to win and to do that they must play attacking cricket. If they draw the Ashes are gone, if they win they get them back. It's pretty simple. They have to attack but it doesn't mean they have to be silly.

You can attack by being patient, bowling maidens and building up pressure in the field, or toughing out a difficult hour as a batsman just to get the team through. It doesn't mean everything has to be done in a hurry, or that you hit yourself out of trouble, like England tried to do in Headingley.

Not many of this Australian team have appeared in a match as important as this, but I don't think their mindset will change. They'll just want to go and play as well as they did in the last Test. It's an exciting time and, man for man, Australia are the better side.

The guys who were involved in 2005 will be desperate to succeed in England (Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke, Simon Katich and Lee were here with me last time). Winning over here is a great feeling and these guys will be as keen as mustard. Don't expect them to be playing for the draw though. They'll be trying to do it like normal and go for the win. By Monday we'll know if the Ashes are still ours.

Jason Gillespie is sixth on Australia's list of Test wicket-takers with 259 in 71 matches. He will write for Cricinfo through the 2009 Ashes