Everything you need to know ahead of the third Ashes Test
Last Updated: 12/12/13 10:38am
The WACA in Perth will play host to the third Test of the five-match series and England cannot afford to lose at a ground where they have only ever won one Test.
The tourists have lost their last six clashes with Australia at the venue, with each of those defeats being inflicted by a considerable margin.
All the right noises have been coming out of the England camp since the 218-run thrashing in Adelaide which put them 2-0 down in the series with three to play, but their ability to back it up will only be truly put to the test on the morning of the opening day's play.
England are expected to juggle their side again, with at least one of the two spinners they selected in Adelaide to come out due to the seamer-friendly conditions in Perth.
Australia's Mitchell Johnson is establishing himself as the runaway candidate for man of the series after his heroics with the ball in the first two Tests and the fact he gets to bowl at the WACA next is likely to have been giving him a 'kid at Christmas' vibe over the last three days.
In recent years England have made a habit of fighting back from bad starts to win Test series, but the feeling is they have to produce something spectacular in Perth to prevent the urn from slipping away.
England captain Alastair Cook will clock up a personal milestone when he leads his side into battle at the WACA, registering his 100th Test appearance. However, the 28-year-old insists that milestone will count for little if his side are found wanting once again. Cook admits England's woes have led to an awful lot of soul-searching on his part, but is adamant the tourists have the character and ability to turn things around in Perth. In a neat coincidence, Michael Clarke will also claim his 100th Test cap this week, and, unsurprisingly given the events of the past couple of weeks, the Australia skipper is cutting a rather more upbeat figure than his England counterpart. But, given Australia's impressive record at this week's venue, Clarke has been quick to guard against complacency and has called upon his side to grasp the chance to "create our own history".
On-field confrontation has been a huge part of this series so far and, according to Mitchell Johnson, the sledging will not stop now Australia have a 2-0 lead. Although the second Test in Adelaide did not reproduce the ugly scenes which marred the opening contest in Brisbane, there were plenty of words exchanged and in-form paceman Johnson was to the forefront. Although many members of the batting line-up - particularly the tail - seemed psyched out by the left armer, Joe Root managed to grin and bear it on the way to a defiant knock of 87. Can his team-mates follow that lead in Perth? "Some people call it sledging, I just call it mind games," Johnson said. "It's a cute little smile he's got. I didn't mind giving him one back as well."
Feeling the heat
Overcast skies and relatively cool temperatures were present for most of the Adelaide Test, but that will not be the case in Perth. The sun is forecast to be out for the duration with temperatures on all five days set to be excess of 35 degrees Celsius. The extreme heat will count against the fast bowlers, but otherwise the pacemen should have it mostly their own way. The wicket should yield pace and bounce aplenty, which may not be the news England's beleaguered battling line-up will have wanted to hear. Mitchell Johnson should be licking his lips. "I haven't spoken to Mitch," WACA curator Matt Page said. "But I'm hoping to see him bowl some 150s (km/h) out here. That would be nice."
Last time out England surprised many by opting to play two spinners, but the WACA pitch means they could feasibly drop both Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann for the third Test. The extra pace of Boyd Rankin or Steven Finn could well be on display, but England may also be intrigued by the prospect of having Tim Bresnan swing the ball into the Fremantle Doctor breeze which blows in from the sea. If England opt to go with both Bresnan and one of the quicks they could field five seamers, or alternatively one of the spinners could be retained alongside four pacier bowlers. Australia have virtually confirmed that their spinner Nathan Lyon will keep his place in the side, which is expected to be unchanged.
The expert view
The media inquest into the capitulations at Brisbane and Adelaide did not make pretty reading for England, but thoughts have now turned to how the tourists could pull off the most improbable of comebacks to retain the Ashes. David Lloyd has put a typically positive spin on things, saying that "sport is so funny and I've got a feeling that we can win, and I'd be thrilled if we can get something out of this Test." Bob Willis, meanwhile, believes the inclusion of Steven Finn is vital on the WACA wicket. "Finn is capable of bowling the ball at 90mph," Willis opined. "Admittedly, he goes for a lot of runs but England are going to need 20 wickets to get back in this series." As far as the batting goes, Nasser Hussain believes the rest of the order need to adopt the never-say-die attitude of Joe Root from now on.
The WACA Ground - named after its owners and operators the Western Australian Cricket Association - is a venue that sticks in the mind of all cricket fans. As mentioned previously, the pace and bounce generated by the wicket makes it one of the biggest challenges any batsman could wish to encounter. Although it may not be allowed to disintegrate into a minefield as it once did, there is still plenty for pace bowlers to work with. However, if batsmen can get in and start seeing the ball onto the bat, they can use the pace and what is likely to be lightning fast outfield to score quick runs. The stadium, which has a capacity of 24,500, has only ever seen one England win, back in 1978/79.
He may have been bowling to the left and the right for the rest of the series, but three years ago Mitchell Johnson (yes, him again) produced a brilliant display of pace bowling in Perth as Australia recorded their sole victory of the 2010/11 series. Johnson returned figures of 6-38 as England were rolled over for just 187 in their first innings. Ryan Harris, who has been Johnson's new-ball partner for the opening two Tests this time, then took 6-47 as the tourists were skittled for just 123 in 37 overs second time around. The upshot of it all was a 267-run win for Australia which also included a century from Michael Hussey.
Stay up or catch up
You can follow the action from Australia this winter in more ways than ever. Every ball will be screened live on Sky Sports 2 but you can also watch wherever you are on your mobile, laptop and selected tablet devices via Sky Go. The Sky Sports Ashes Events Centre - which is available on both PC and iPad - allows you to get a totally different take on each day's play, offering live scorecards, match stats and player profiles - plus you can build your own analysis just like the commentators with Hawkeye, wagon wheels and more! If you can't stay up all night then there are plenty of ways to catch up. Simply press the red button on your TV to see highlights throughout the day or you can log on for highlights on skysports.com and on the Sky Sports iPad app. Wake up to The Ashes Breakfast every morning for extensive reaction to the night's action and our Verdict at Night show will provide in-depth analysis and discussion before The Ashes Extra - Live brings you all the build-up to the start of play.