The Reuters global sports blog
Australia have far more limited options than England when they consider changes to their
battle-weary side for the fourth Ashes test starting on Friday at Headingley, with their main hope of fresh impetus resting on the fitness of Brett Lee.
England had the luxury of bringing in fresh blood on Tuesday, calling up fast bowler Ryan Sidebottom and uncapped batsman Jonathan Trott for the first time this series, while again putting Steve Harmison on standby in a 14-man squad.
Australia captain Ricky Ponting expects to be able to call on Lee for the first time this series, after the quick bowler missed the first three tests with a rib injury.
Seamer Stuart Clark could be another option, possibly at the expense of Peter Siddle but otherwise the skipper has little to juggle with ahead of a match they cannot afford to lose, with England already 1-0 up with two to play.
Australia have no Shane Warne, no Glenn McGrath, no Brett Lee and no Stuart Clark, yet England still managed to lose three wickets on the opening morning of the first Ashes Test and failed to take the sort of grip on the match, and the series, that was there for the taking.
They lost four more wickets over the course of the day, to finish on 336 for seven, but it was a case of England playing themselves into trouble rather than any genuine menace on the part of the Aussie attack (the exception being the beautiful inducker from Peter Siddle that did for Matt Prior late on).
England’s cricketers face a monumental task if they are to regain the Ashes they surrendered so meekly in 2006/07. Forget 2005 for a moment and take a longer-term view. Since the turn of the 20th Century, England have managed just 17 victories in Ashes series, compared to Australia’s 30, as they have regularly been confounded technically and mentally.
A 2-0 series win over the West Indies at the start of the summer buoyed England’s confidence but looks can be deceiving. The fact is, England have failed to beat a leading Test playing nation home or away since Pakistan in 2006.