Cricket Expert & Columnist
The Ashes: Oval defeat will have serious Australian repercussions
There will be serious repercussions for Australia if they lose the fifth Test, says Nasser Hussain.
Last Updated: 21/08/13 7:59am
The Ashes won, Alastair Cook's side can become the first English team to win an Ashes series 4-0 by extending an unbeaten run that now stretches to 12 Tests.
They've not been at their best this series but they dug deep in Durham and thanks to some clever and aggressive bowling from Stuart Broad and key contributions down the order they head into this fifth Test far more relaxed than they would have been had the scoreline read 2-1.
Australia feel that they've won as many sessions in this series as England but they've come unstuck in the vital ones. They believe that they are due some reward for all of the effort they've put in and with a home series around the corner another defeat could have serious repercussions.
Coach Darren Lehmann has already hinted that certain individuals are playing for their futures so there will be a few people turning up at the Oval tomorrow desperate for runs.
You can either buckle under that pressure or rise to the challenge and this is the time to find out exactly what some of these Australian batsmen are made of.
I remember when Andrew Strauss faced his own watershed moment back in 2008 in Napier where many people said he was in the last-chance saloon.
That pressure cleared his mind and he responded with a gritty century; he got his head down and score runs because he knew that if he didn't perform someone would take his spot.
At that point there are no 'ifs' and 'buts' anymore; it is about delivering what's required and that's what Australia must do now. They need to win the toss and replicate their form at Old Trafford, where they got first innings runs and plenty of them.
Australia stumbled onto a good batting line-up at Old Trafford. David Warner looks solid at the top of the order and, as I'm not one on the whole for chopping and changing, I'd stick with Usman Khawaja at number three with Michael Clarke at four where he has blossomed as the series has gone on.
Back in the 1990s when results weren't going our way we went around in circles with our selection, dropping and re-selecting players like Mark Ramprakash and Graeme Hick.
I'd rather show faith in players - just as England are doing with Jonny Bairstow - because if you are good enough to play for your country then you should be given a long run to prove the selectors right or wrong.
At times Khawaja has looked a good player only to get out softly - the second innings at Durham being a case in point - but I'd give him the chance to prove his ability on what should be a good pitch at the Oval. It's time Australia found out about Khawaja, Steve Smith, Shane Watson and decide if it is time to move on or not.
They also need to toughen up as a unit and learn how to handle the pressure situations better because when they do start to collapse things go pear-shaped very quickly.
One of the best things about a five-Test series is that there's no getting away from the opposition; if they've found a weakness in your game there is no hiding place and it's up to you to find a solution.
Broad has dismissed Clarke at least once in each Test so far - twice at Durham - and it has become clear that Australia's captain has changed his trigger movements against Broad and how he is batting slightly differently against Broad than he does against everyone else. We'll look at this more closely on air in the build-up to the first day tomorrow.
Similarly Cook, Joe Root and Jonathan Trott have their own issues to resolve because Australian's seamers have come up with a plan to each that seems to work and they've executed it well.
The form of England's top-order remains a worry and with Bairstow a bit iffy at number six and Tim Bresnan ruled out, the selectors will be concerned about getting enough runs from the lower-middle order but despite that I'd still select Chris Tremlett as the third seamer for this Test.
If you don't play him at the Oval, then where are you going to play him? Tremlett looks to be the obvious replacement for Bresnan - a Test match on his home pitch, which historically has pace and bounce against some opposition players who don't like bowling of that type.
After another round of injuries I feel he is now bowling as well as he was in the last Ashes series so he should get the nod ahead of bowlers like Steven Finn and Boyd Rankin, in part to see where he is with his body more than anything else.
Can he still get through five days and retain that pace, nip and bounce that we all know he had a year or so ago? In Bresnan's absence now is the time to find out.
The selectors have added Chris Woakes and Simon Kerrigan to the squad with half an eye on the future. If Bresnan does have an issue for the winter tour it's key that they've got some potential number eights lined up and this time Woakes has got the nod over his Durham team-mate Ben Stokes.
I've heard a lot of good things about Kerrigan - a lot of people in county cricket rate him very highly. Sometimes you have to take things like that with a pinch of salt but the tracks at Old Trafford haven't been spinning that much this year so given the Monty Pansear situation he looks a good pick.
Whatever the line-up England will be aiming for that 4-0 win and what a scoreline that will be.
Watch the first day of the fifth and final Test between England and Australia live on Sky Sports Ashes HD from 10am on Wednesday and on the Ashes Events Centre, available via the Sky Sports App.