Old Trafford countdown
Everything you need to know ahead of the third Ashes Test
Last Updated: 01/08/13 9:07am
The hosts, who have won the last two series against their arch rivals, go into the clash with a commanding 2-0 lead in the five-match battle.
Despite their dominance they do have an injury concern ahead of the contest as Kevin Pietersen's participation is still uncertain due to a calf problem, with James Taylor waiting in the wings to replace him should he fail to come through late fitness checks.
Spinner Monty Panesar and Chris Tremlett have also been included in England's 14-man squad, while the big question over Australia's selection centres on whether or not David Warner will be slotted back into the batting order.
After their crushing defeat at Lord's, the tourists know only a win will do if they want to take back the urn for the first time since the 2006-07 series. Ahead of the opening day on Thursday, we bring you all the news, views, video and opinion.
Not over yet
England only need to win one of the three remaining Tests to close out a series victory, but captain Alastair Cook says complacency will not be a problem at Old Trafford. Australia have come back from a 2-0 deficit in the Ashes once before - in 1936/37 - and a repeat of that escape would be miraculous. Cook, however, is making sure his team's minds stay focused on the job. "They are a dangerous side, [the first Test at] Trent Bridge was an incredibly close game. Lord's was a big win but it has been a very tough series."
Don't stop believing
Odds have been shortening on a England whitewash since the thumping at Lord's, but Australia captain Michael Clarke says his side are not only out to avoid a 5-0 scoreline, they still believe they can turn the series around and emerge victorious. In his press conference on the eve of the Test, Clarke gave out a defiant tone. "I honestly believe we can win still win the series," he said. "I know a lot of people will laugh at that but I wouldn't be here if I didn't think we could. Without a doubt our backs are against the wall but I think we can still shake up this series."
Pietersen was ruled out of the final two days of the second Test at Lord's with a calf strain and has faced a race against time to be fit for the third match of the series. The England batsman was given a boost on Wednesday but a final decision over his fitness is yet to be made and could be left until the morning of the opening day. If he cannot take part then James Taylor, who played two Tests against South Africa last year, is set to replace him.
Tremlett and Panesar have been called into the England squad and with the pitch in Manchester expected to offer plenty of turn, some have speculated the latter could be given a shock start alongside Graeme Swann as a second spinner. Australia, meanwhile, look set to slot Warner back into their line-up, possibly in place of Steve Smith, who is struggling with a back problem. Off-spinner Nathan Lyon has also been tipped for a recall, with Ashton Agar's place in the side under pressure following his ineffective performance with the ball at Lord's.
James Anderson is just five wickets short of joining Bob Willis as England's second most successful bowler in Test history. His home venue of Old Trafford, where he has never played in an Ashes Test before, would be a fitting place to match or even surpass the milestone. In 2005, Anderson was not selected for the memorable draw with Australia but will be the leader of England's attack this time round. "I'm very excited - I've not played an Ashes Test here before," he said. "I was fortunate to get to one of the days here in 2005 and the atmosphere was incredible so I can't wait to get going on Thursday."
Backing for Warner
Warner could come back in for Australia with the tourists desperately needing to find some more runs from their specialist batsmen. Where he would slot into the order is less clear, with Chris Rogers one of the players who could make way if Smith recovers from injury. Former Australia batsman Adam Gilchrist does not want the misfiring line-up to be changed, while Sky Sports expert Nasser Hussain thinks fresh impetus is needed. "Darren Lehmann doesn't want 11 'yes men' out there; he doesn't want everyone to be all 'nicey, nicey'," Hussain said. "Boof likes tough cricketers who can perform. Personally, I would pick Warner."
No place for Panesar?
The inclusion of Tremlett and Panesar in the England squad was something of a surprise move, but the Cricket Writers on TV panel do not think either are likely to bowl at Old Trafford. Changing an attack which restricted Australia to just 363 total runs at Lord's would certainly be a shock, and Vic Marks of the Observer does not think it will happen. "The chances of England playing two spinners in a four-man attack are not great," he said. "So whilst they are in the squad, it'd still be a surprise if Tremlett and Panesar play." Sam Peters of the Mail on Sunday agreed, adding: "I can't remember the last time England played two spinners in England; it's certainly not very recently."
Old Trafford memories
The last time Ashes cricket visited Manchester was during the unforgettable series of 2005, when a rampaging England were just thwarted by last-wicket pair Glenn McGrath and Brett Lee on the final day. After skipper Ricky Ponting had scored a magnificent century to keep his side alive, the tailenders saw it out to scrape a draw which left the series tied at 1-1 heading into the last two matches. For all the drama and highlights from that dramatic Test, click here.