The Ashes: England can rotate some players for Oval, says Holding
Final Test changes? Areas to improve? The Ashes Panel discusses the key questions ahead of the Oval.
Last Updated: 14/08/13 1:52pm
So why is there such a big disparity between the teams and where do the respective sides go from here?
In the aftermath of England's 74-run fourth Test victory, Sky Cricket pundits Sir Ian Botham, Michael Holding, Michael Atherton, Andrew Strauss, Greg Blewett and Bob Willis addressed some of the key issues including the host's chances of making it 4-0 at the Oval next week.
What are the key differences between the teams?
Beefy: "Ryan Harris has been magnificent throughout the series for Australia after missing the first Test but he's needed a little bit of help at the other end and too often it simply hasn't been there. In contrast Jimmy Anderson has had an off-game by his standards at Durham but Tim Bresnan did a great job at one end and then you had Stuart Broad, who was unplayable when he got his lengths right in the evening session. When he got it right Australia had no answer to him. He's quick enough to rush the best players but if he gets it right he gets that little bit extra bounce, which makes him very hard to play. England have dominated the series. It took a couple of extraordinary innings to help Australia prolong that game and England have been the better team all round throughout the series in bowling, batting and fielding."
Mikey: "I think Australia recognise that this batting line-up is not the best in the world. They got a fantastic start in the second innings and they would have been hoping to build on it. But at the same time England and everyone else would have been looking at it and thinking 'ok, a wicket or two and you are right into this batting line-up'. Michael Clarke was always going to be a big wicket and when Broad got him I think most people thought the game was over. I think a 3-0 scoreline is a real reflection of how better a team England are. I thought they would have won some of the Tests a little more comfortably - they had to fight to win at Trent Bridge and Durham - but you can't ask for much more than 3-0!"
Just how good was Stuart Broad at Durham?
Mikey: "He was brilliant. He bowled very, very well throughout the Test match and it was magnificent to see the way that he ran in. People keep saying that when he's on-song he gets his wickets in bunches so what I'd like to see from Stuart Broad is just a little bit more consistency - that he can turn up every day and put in a performance and get some wickets. You don't expect five wickets every time but it would be good to see him put in a performance almost every Test match. But he certainly is a magnificent bowler."
Bob: "It was a scintillating finish and what can you say about Broad? He did it four years ago at the Oval to win the match there, earlier this summer he blew the New Zealanders away at Lord's and this was another sensational spell of bowling. When he gets that length right and bowls a little bit fuller he's extremely difficult to handle and the delivery he bowled to dismiss Michael Clarke was absolutely outstanding - it clocked 91mph and was the quickest delivery of the match."
Greg: "It was a great spell from Broad but Australia were 0-109 chasing 299 and it was happy days. David Warner and Chris Rogers got us off to another good start and then a couple of wickets went down and England were on a roll. There was a bit of reverse swing and that was crucial, I think, in terms of getting through the Australia order. It was a good sign that Australia got through the new ball but runs on the board are always great; you always knew that one or two breakthroughs would keep England in the game."
Are England playing at their best?
Andrew: "I don't think they have played their best cricket - quite a few of their players have had a quiet series with the bat, in particular. But they've had to cope with that 'favourites' tag and that's a hard thing to do. Australia had just come off a 4-0 defeat to India and there had been all sorts of off-field problems with them. Everyone just assumed that England would just have to turn up to win but it's never as easy as that. England have had to battle with that to a certain extent but they've battled well, actually, and when push came to shove and they've got themselves in pressure situations they've got themselves out of that. They had to dig really deep over the course of a number of the Test matches and it just shows that there is still a lot of confidence in this group."
Athers: "I wouldn't say that England have been absolutely at their best. It is a crushing scoreline now but one or two England players will look back on the series and think 'we didn't quite contribute as we might have done' but you always get that to some extent. There is always one or two players who don't necessarily contribute as they'd like to. But they've won the critical moments. The Lord's match has really been the exception in this series in the sense that England were absolutely dominant in that game - other than that they haven't been quite so dominant but perhaps you shouldn't expect that against Australia."
Greg: "England deserve to be where they are at the moment but I don't think we've really seen the best of both sides. England played really well at Lord's and crushed Australia but I don' think the batters on either side have been at their best. Individuals have had good Tests here and there but generally the ball has dominated the bat. Australia can take some positives out of some of the Tests; we still haven't got a settled top six, which is probably the main worry. There will be a change at the Oval if Shane Watson doesn't recover from his hip injury. There are still questions to ask. If they bring Phillip Hughes back, for example, where do they bat him?"
What about England - will they make changes for the fifth Test?
Athers: Tremlett will certainly be in the squad. You don't quite know what you are going to get at the Oval. If you get an old-style pitch with pace and bounce, then Tremlett would be a real handful. If you get the kind of dirty surface we had in 2009, which was a real spinning top, you'd actually probably want a second spinner in the squad. That is an issue for England at the moment, given Monty Panesar's troubles down at Sussex. It may be that Kerrigan comes in - he seems to have had a good season and seems to be the next spinner in line. The only issue really is Anderson. How tired is he? How fresh is he? He'll have some time off before the Oval Test so one assumes that he'll be fresh and fit and raring to go.
Mikey: "England can rotate a few players. They have a pretty strong squad. You know how good your team is when you look at the bench and see a few guys there who could easily be in the team. So there is every chance that they may rotate some of the bowlers, in particular. I don't really buy this argument about some of them being tired, though! These guys are well looked after, they don't play county cricket and they have lots of time in between Test matches."
Athers: "They'll want to show faith in Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow who have had a little bit of a difficult time in the last few games. Root is under no threat after that huge score at Lord's but there will be a little talk about Bairstow, but I thought he played pretty well in the second innings actually. Even though it was just an innings of 20-odd he showed some positive signs and they'll want to give him another chance. If you can't show faith in younger players when you are 3-0 up in an Ashes series, when can you?"
Can England reclaim No 1 spot in the Test rankings?
Athers: "I suppose England will want to get back to World No 1. I think it is very dangerous to set long-term goals. It is a terrible cliché but you just want to take these things one match at a time and if you keep winning you build up a head of steam and I'm sure that's what England will want to do now. You'd expect a different type of series in Australia. I think Australia have been a bit miffed about how England have tailor-made the conditions here for Swann and the reverse-swingers. We might see some pitches with a lot more green grass on them in Australia and in a way that will suit some of England's seamers as well. It will be a different type of series and England will want to retain the Ashes there as well."
Mikey: "Rankings are always important for a team but I don' think that England need to be looking specifically at their ranking. All they've got to do is beat whoever comes up in front of them. Then the rankings take care of themselves; if you keep beating everyone eventually someone will tell you that you are number one."
For more fourth Test reaction from Shane Warne, Nasser Hussain and Andrew Strauss simply click here. Watch the fifth and final Ashes Test on Sky Sports Ashes from 10am on Wednesday 21st August and on the Ashes Events Centre, available via the Sky Sports App.