Australia restored or England refreshed?
Match factsAugust 9-13, Chester-le-Street
Start time 1100 (1000 GMT)
Big PictureAt Old Trafford England remained unbeaten for the 11th consecutive Test, while Australia failed to win for the seventh match in a row. The result also ensured the Ashes would remain in English possession, yet the evidence of the eyes tended to conflict with that conveyed by the scoreboard and the record book. Australia appeared to have turned a significant corner, putting near enough to five days of staunch cricket together for the first time in recent memory, and England looked more than a little exhausted by their earlier efforts in the series. At the same time their batsmen showed increasing signs of frailty in the face of the tourists' admirable pace attack, a reliance on Ian Bell and Kevin Pietersen to extricate the top three from bother growing more apparent with each match.
So with the series moving to a venue less familiar to both sides, though the pitch is again straw-coloured, the question is how much the trends of Manchester will have an impact on proceedings at Durham. England were by far the better of the two sides in coping with the quick onset of another match so soon after the Nottingham epic, and this time also have the added relief of not having to worry about retaining the urn anymore. They should thus be capable of playing with a little more freedom of expression, not least the young opener Joe Root, who looked near enough to paralysed during two soporific innings in Lancashire. The unrelenting seam-up stylings of Graham Onions appear a likely reinforcement for the hosts' bowling attack, which lacked a certain pep last week.
For Australia, the gains of the third Test will mean little if they are not followed up with a pair of equally compelling displays in the final two matches. Given how inconsistent the side has been throughout Michael Clarke's captaincy, bottoming out with a horrid display in India, the habits of successful teams need to be re-established with a strong sequence of performances. The team's belief in their bowling attack is considerable, but the batsmen now need to show that they can maintain the standards set by Clarke, Chris Rogers, Steven Smith and Brad Haddin. It cannot be forgotten that the next campaign for the Ashes is but three months away.
Form guideEngland: DWWWW
Players to watchJonathan Trott has been on something of a charm offensive this summer, appearing in plenty of interviews and doing his best to sound like the world's most fascinating individual. However somewhere along the way his ability to bat boring seems to have been lost. Near enough to impassable during the previous Ashes series in Australia, he failed to capitalise on some free-scoring form at Trent Bridge, albeit partly due to an incorrectly given lbw decision in the second innings. From there his form has ebbed away, and at Old Trafford he looked lost, stumbling across his stumps in the manner of sundry English batsmen in 1989. Within the team, Trott is admired for his consistency and even temper. Perhaps he needs to remember that being dull is an asset, not a weakness.
Plenty of observers were surprised by the vim with which Chris Rogers batted in Manchester, but not those who had seen him play precisely those kinds of innings for Middlesex and Victoria. No fussiness, but plenty of feistiness, as a succession perfectly reasonable deliveries were cuffed to the boundary. The ability to play with aggression and decisiveness at a point of the game where others may be nervous or unsure is one of Rogers' great attributes, but another is the fashioning of hundreds. So far, despite serviceable contribution to the series, he has fallen short of that goal. Nonetheless, Rogers is Australia's best hope of finding someone other than Clarke to push on to the kind of score an innings may be built around.
Graham Onions and Chris Tremlett are both in the England squad, and it appears most likely that the former will shuffle into the XI, perhaps at the expense of Tim Bresnan. There will be some temptation to withdraw one of Stuart Broad or James Anderson from the firing line after their efforts so far in the series.
England (probable) 1 Alastair Cook (capt), 2 Joe Root, 3 Jonathan Trott, 4 Kevin Pietersen, 5 Ian Bell, 6 Jonny Bairstow, 7 Matt Prior (wk), 8 Tim Bresnan/Graham Onions, 9 Stuart Broad, 10 Graeme Swann, 11 James Anderson
Having tried no end of permutations since Michael Hussey's retirement, Australia appeared to settle on a batting order they may keep from the second innings in Manchester. David Warner looked comfortable at the top with Rogers, while Shane Watson's bowling may again lead to his demotion. One of Ryan Harris or Mitchell Starc will most likely make way for the fresher Jackson Bird.
Australia (probable) 1 David Warner, 2 Chris Rogers, 3 Usman Khawaja, 4 Michael Clarke (capt), 5 Shane Watson, 6 Steve Smith, 7 Brad Haddin (wk), 8 Peter Siddle, 9 Ryan Harris, 10 Nathan Lyon, 11 Jackson Bird.
Pitch and conditionsThe surface unveiled for the fourth Test maintains a pattern of dry, hard pitches prepared more or less to the specifications of the England coach Andy Flower. The forecast for Durham is for the occasional shower amid periods of friendly, if cloudy, weather.
Stats and trivia
- This is the first Ashes Test to be played in Durham, making it the ninth ground to host a Test between England and Australia in the UK
- The last Ashes series to be drawn 2-2 took place in England in 1972
- Michael Clarke needs 103 runs to pass Justin Langer and move into sixth place on Australia's list of all-time run-makers
"We want to win the Ashes and we haven't yet done it. Along the way we retained them pretty quickly so that is a great achievement and something to be mighty proud of. We want to go on and win the series. The way the lads are, the way we are as a team and the way Andy Flower operates, there will be no let up of the standards we set ourselves."
Alastair Cook wants to win the series.
"I don't think anyone is here to 'give them a go'. That's not in any Test cricket and certainly not an Ashes series, especially the position we're sitting in now. It's about picking your best 11 players."
Michael Clarke rejects notions that the teams will be selected a little more elastically now the Ashes have been decided.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here