<
>

Play Johnson, rest Hussey

Australia are favourites to retain the Ashes at The Oval, where they need only a draw to keep the trophy after levelling the series 1-1 at Headingley on Sunday. Here are five things the tourists have to watch out for over the next week.

Keep playing Johnson
Mitchell Johnson probably feels like a rest but he has to play in the two-day tour game against England Lions this weekend so he doesn't lose the gains of Leeds. His six wickets included 5 for 69 in the second innings, proving he was finally back in top form after his horrible struggles earlier in the series. Having found his groove, Johnson must keep bowling to stay on track for the most important game of his life. Peter Siddle and Ben Hilfenhaus can cope with a break this weekend but Johnson can't afford to ease off before the fifth Test on August 20. How he performs determines whether England have a chance of an Ashes victory.

You haven't won yet

Smug smiles are already appearing in the Australian camp over England's selection woes. "That's obviously all started which for us is terrific," Ricky Ponting said of the growing Mark Ramprakash speculation over the weekend. It's always fun for an Australian to laugh at their opponents' predicament when things go bad (think 1989-2007, apart from 2005), but this team does not carry the same predetermined path for success. Underestimating and privately mocking their opponents is too risky at this stage of the trip.

Thirteen of the 16 players on tour have never appeared in a winner-takes-all Test so there is no room for relaxing once they turn up in south London. The last time Australia contested the final game of the series with the scores level was against India in 2003-04, when the SCG contest ended in a draw, and the rubber ended at 1-1. Ricky Ponting, Simon Katich and Brett Lee are the only men from that that game who are with the squad in England.

Send Hussey on holiday
With the success of Shane Watson, who scored a third consecutive half-century as opener in Leeds, Australia's only batting concern is Michael Hussey. He has two half-centuries but has managed 155 runs in six innings to extend his worrying lean patch. Hussey, an incredibly focussed character, was put in charge for the previous tour game against Northamptonshire when Ponting, Michael Clarke and Brad Haddin were rested. He doesn't need that this time and would benefit more from a complete break - the Ashford Eurostar terminal isn't far from Canterbury - rather than wasting two more days of nervous energy against inferior opponents.

He began the tour with a century and a half-century against the England Lions, which didn't turn into a major Test breakthrough, so runs against lower-tier bowlers won't help. A short rest might. Like Johnson, he needs to be sharp against England, particularly if the fabulous streaks of Clarke and Marcus North end.

Be careful
The last time Australia felt this good was in South Africa in March when a similar-looking outfit knocked off the hosts to seal the series in the first two Tests. They celebrated during a week off and returned, admittedly for a dead rubber, to be thrashed by an innings and 20 runs. Two days off in Leeds was the reward for the Headingley success, but they must be wary about what they do in the next.

If they take it too easy it might be hard to switch back on, but if they remain obsessed by the upcoming contest they will be exhausted by the time the coin is flipped on Thursday week. "The important thing for us now is keeping a bit of a lid on what we've done," Ponting said after Leeds. "All the guys will be jumping out of their skins to start The Oval Test. It's a long way away now."

Team harmony
There have been some grumpy fast bowlers at stages during the tour and now there doesn't appear to be any way back for Brett Lee. He will have an innings to show his fitness at Canterbury but unless he knocks over eight batsmen will be limited to running drinks in the final Test. How he deals with another setback could impact on rest of the attack. Stuart Clark faces another tough wait while the selectors consider whether to keep him or call up the offspinner Nathan Hauritz. Suddenly the squad of 16 looks too big. The team management has extra off-field work to do to ensure everything runs smoothly over the next week.