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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Will on August 21, 2009, 13:51 GMT

    The Stonemson again - on the aspect of who will be the Victor in the 5th of the Ashes, will depend on how well Eng can attack one frontline bowler and take the hinges off the 5th combination bowler. Granted they maintain an above average batting display, they could be in with a shout. The Aussies however have several game breakers, Eng will have to be conservatively aggressive and be selective exactly when they do go all attack as opposed to maintaining with both bat & ball. Round 1 Aussie beat you in restricting you to 332. Round 2 - The going is fair thus far, but you need to get from Ponting to Haddin for under 200 to have a say. It could be good for cricket should you achieve this, so Try! England, Try!

  • Will on August 21, 2009, 13:40 GMT

    Lets drop the battery on who knows his Cricket better than the next and the tricks missed by which selectors. One thing that is clear that is the Poms did not take heed to the Aussie performance in SA. Cricketers are Born & Bred tough in the southern hemispere, or shall I say sportsmen/women. SA beat the Aussis Oz and they bounced back in SA. Beating the best, you have to be at your best all the time, not just sometimes. Should you do yourselves an honour or Aussie provide the favour to beat them, then you could come to SA as like-to-believe world nr1's to make a good contest here. But I say again, to beat the Aussies. Be your best ALL the time. Avid SA Green Machine supporter.

  • Baundule on August 20, 2009, 12:16 GMT

    Australia missed a trick dropping Brett Lee. He is something special with his speed and reverse-swing. Then from the rest of the bowlers they could have made a lottery, if they fail to drop someone ;) To win a special match, you need a special player. I think, Australia will suffer from that wrong decision, if England plays with patience.

  • Ajay on August 20, 2009, 7:04 GMT

    Australia should go with 4 seamers. Even if the pitch starts to spin, North, Clarke and Katich are more than ordinary spin bowlers. Brett Lee should play as his reverse swing abilities would come handy

  • Muhammad on August 20, 2009, 6:58 GMT

    I tried my best to drop one or two players to play Hauritz but I got no justification to change the bowling pace battery of Headingley test. this is wonderful combination.remember the oval test of ashes 2005 despite shane warne australia could hardly dismiss england to level the series. Rizwan from Lahore

  • Muhammad on August 20, 2009, 6:50 GMT

    I tried my best to drop one or two players to play Hauritz but I got no justification to change the bowling pace battery of Headingley test. this is wonderful combination.remember the oval test of ashes 2005 despite shane warne australia could hardly dismiss england to level the series. Rizwan from Lahore

  • Nabban on August 20, 2009, 2:33 GMT

    I agree with Geebs and prendergaj190391...the aussies are definite favourites and they have a reptation of winning when it counts like they did at the 4th test. my only dilemna is that i would sorely like to see bret lee play, but i can't see how they'd change a winning combo. Johnson is getting back at his best, siddle has just transformed back into sid vicous, Hilfenhaus is swinging like a monkey and i've always seen stuart clark as the most likely player to replace mcgrath 'cos of his pin point accuracy which he aptly demonstrated in the series leveler...he provides the pressure for which the other wicket takers can have a go. seems perfect.

  • Michael on August 19, 2009, 23:00 GMT

    Beertjie, the reason they are going with four bowlers is because they believe it is the best combination to take 20 wickets. How is bringing your best bowling attack a negative move? Having 4 fast bowlers means if they field first reduce the batting team to a low score, as previous test. If batting first build such a big total and keep on taking wickets.

  • Graeme on August 19, 2009, 17:46 GMT

    Clearly, Beertjie loves the sound of his own voice. So disappointing to read such uneducated comments amongst a column that's frequently thought provoking. Here's to another armchair selector that's obviously never played the game at senior level. You pelican!

  • jake on August 19, 2009, 15:21 GMT

    beertjie how can you say it is negative to go into a game with a bowling attack that meant we could win in 3 days? that doesn't make any sense.

  • No featured comments at the moment.