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Kent skipper could be Key for Ashes

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Alison Mitchell | 18:50 UK time, Wednesday, 12 August 2009

In the course of my travels over the last couple of days, I've watched Ravi Bopara and Alastair Cook get out for one and four respectively at Lord's, seen Kent skipper Rob Key score an assured 90 only to miss out on a ton when he was lbw to a straight one at Northampton, and called in at The Oval to sit in on an interview with Mark Ramprakash, to hear him say he'd definitely play for England again, if asked.

What a week this is turning into for speculation, counter-speculation and player watching.

Once Bopara and Cook were dismissed at Lord's, England selector James Whitaker sat in the media centre, glued to the television, awaiting news of Ian Bell and Jonathan Trott from Trent Bridge.

The skies were leaden and it wasn't a good day for batting. Who'd be an England selector?

Wholesale changes aren't needed for the Oval. Yes, England had a horrendous time at Headingley, batted and bowled abysmally, but you don't become a terrible side overnight (or even in two-and-a-half days as the case may be).

As dreadful as the bowling was in Leeds, it's the middle order, bereft of Kevin Pietersen, which is England's big problem. Whilst Bopara has flair and talent, he is shot of confidence against the Australians, and another batsman should be brought in at three. Bopara undoubtedly has a bright future, but he's woefully out of form. Should he be dropped to four?

Well, it would be difficult to drop Bell after he made a half century at Edgbaston and was simply as bad as everyone else in Leeds. Bell should be given another go. He's also a specialist close fielder - crucial if spin is to play a big part next week.

In theory, Jonathan Trott is next in line, as he was in the squad for the fourth Test. But he is a number four, not three, for Warwickshire - and it could be a risk to hand him a debut in a deciding Ashes Test.

Rob Key and Andrew Flintoff pose for a photograph after England's Test series win in South Africa in 2005

Rob Key looks the part to me. He opens the batting for Kent, so has no qualms about walking out to face the new(ish) ball if necessary. He's found his form after a terrible start to the season, narrowly missing out on what would have been a fourth hundred in seven innings the other day at Wantage Road. Yes, his runs have come against Second Division bowlers, but you can only score runs against those in front of you.

He's also familiar with the England set-up, the routine, the dressing room, having been England Lions captain and in the World Twenty20 squad. Disruption would be minimal, and we saw what disruption did to the side before the Headingley Test started.

But what about the other perceived contenders? When it comes to talk of a recall for Mark Ramprakash, I can't help but think this: why would the selectors do an about turn and opt for a player who hasn't featured so far in their plans?

England want to win the Ashes, they've wanted to win from day one of the first Test, and they wanted to win at Headingley.

If the selectors seriously thought Ramprakash was the man to help them do that, they would have, and should have picked him by now. Their thinking shouldn't change because it is a decider, and certainly not because of a media frenzy.

There is no denying Ramprakash's county record (County Championship average of 100 for Surrey this season), but question marks have still been raised about his ability to cope with the big occasion under pressure.

He says he learnt a great deal from his experience on Strictly Come Dancing, but it must be telling that when he reached 99 first-class hundreds in his career last summer, it took him 11 innings to reach his 100th, with the media following his every move. Going back to the start of the 2007 season, without the media scrutiny, he'd gone no longer than five innings without a century.

The idea of Marcus Trescothick returning for a one-off Test also doesn't sit well. The club's chief executive Richard Gould believes Trescothick could be talked out of retirement. Trescothick himself says if he was asked, he would listen. But national selector Geoff Miller says Trescothick has retired and until he hears otherwise, that's the way it stays. So it seems there is stalemate anyway.

England should stick with their plans, remember how they outplayed Australia at Lord's, remember how they got the upper hand before the rain came at Edgbaston, and be attuned to how much the Aussies would love to see them veer off course and make drastic changes after one - albeit very hefty - defeat.


  • Comment number 1.

    What you say about Mark Ramprakash also applies to Robert Key: surely he should have been in the last squad ahead of Trott if he was that pivotal in the selectors' plans? Also, no amount of runs scored in county cricket convinces me - very few England players have, over the last few years, been able to convert county success to test success. As regards Pietersen AND Flintoff: would their presence at Headingley have made any substantial difference? Both have been part of similar England collapses on many occasions.
    Most sensible solution I've heard would be to move Collingwood up to number three, with Bell at four, Bopara at five; then Prior, Flintoff, Broad, Swann, Harmison and either Anderson or Onions (I'd go for Onions).
    The deficiencies in this England side are psychological rather than technical, and, pathetic though it may seem, it could just be that with their 'talisman' back in the side, they rediscover their fighting spirit.

  • Comment number 2.

    Addendum to my last comment: can't help thinking that Strauss made a decisive howler before the match started - who in their right minds bats first at Headlingley with dampness about? Get the opposition in first, and use the bowling conditions to put them under pressure as quickly as possible.

  • Comment number 3.

    I can't help but think this: why would the selectors do an about turn and opt for a player who hasn't featured so far in their plans?


    Yet aparently picking Key, who has not featured either would be OK by you ?

    I don't see the reasoning behind picking either man, both have tried and on the whole looked not good enough for International cricket. Both are playing in division 2 against quite poor quality bowling.

    Trott is the next in line and should play, as you state he is a #4 so play him at #4.

    Whether that is the only change (and who to drop) are more puzzling questions and for me it is all about whether the selectors have genuine faith in Ravi Bopara. I for one think he will be a very good international player, but for the life of me I can never see him being a top 3 batsman. He is not bulletproof enough to play the defensive role nor is he destructive enough to get by as the attacking member of the partnership. so for me we assume that he either doesnt play or at least drops down the order. A decision I will come back to later.

    So who will play at #3 then? The obvious options are Bell - who is also low on confidence despite showing good form this year, a clear sign of a mental block - and Key, who one big innings apart (221) averages in the mid-twenties so far in his 15 tests and looked like a rabbit caught in the headlights at times, though I admit I dont know how he got on for the Lions.

    There are though two less obvious choices and for me both would involve bringing in a player to open rather than play at #3 and sliding Cook down a place to add stability in case of an early wicket. The first of which has criminally barely been mentioned and is Michael Carberry. In excellent form this season, in division 1, has decent experience for a county cricketer and at 28 is not a stop-gap solution; importantly he is also a genuine opening batsman. The second is Matt Prior and yes I know what your thinking, he's no opener, well he has managed to do a decent job opening in one day matches and has the ability to score runs quickly enough to pressurise the bowlers into going defensive sooner. He is full of confidence having performed well with both bat and gloves in the series so far and showed that he has the mental toughness after performing better than anyone in first innings despite all teh palava over his back. Prior's promotion would also allow them to continue with Bopara but play him at #6 instead where I feel he is much better suited.

    Which all in all leaves me with two possible lineups, Bell missing out on both and Trott coming in, the two differences being Bopara for Carberry and positional.

    Strauss, Carberry, Cook, Trott, Collinwood, Prior


    Strauss, Prior, Cook, Trott, Collinwood, Bopara

    An interesting problem that, do I go with two debutants in such an important match? Possibly not, but the alternative does mean playing with a Bopara low on confidence. If I do pick either option do I really put Cook in at #3 and pairing Prior/Carberry with Strauss to open? Might be better for a player on debut/out of position to know exactly when they are coming in and they would not have the problem of possibly walking out at 0-1 and it would put an experienced player between them and Trott at #4 to steady the ship is my thinking.

    At the moment I would go with option 1, if only because I think Carberry opening would be more solid than Prior, Bopara loses out.

  • Comment number 4.

    Also how anyone can make a case for Harmison to play in such a crucial match is beyond me. Onions has done nothing wrong (certainly no worse than any other bowler) and the notion of dropping anderson who has been our best bowler all year is ridiculous. Harmison should only come into the equation if Flintoff can not bowl.

  • Comment number 5.

    This article seems to be well researched and has the most analysis and sense instead of the usual hysteria. Well done. For example you know that Key is an opener and plays at 2 whereas all the rest of the commentators seem to think he is a proven no 3, including Jonathan Agnew. Don't they ever watch County cricket and keep up to date?

    I have been very dismayed by the mismanagement of the team. Surely we need a tougher Coach and captain to shut down on the antics of the media in an Ashes Series. To release the players to the Counties seems a mind blowingly poor decision. They would have been better off studying the Aussie bowlers in action in their friendly game. These are all talented players. They don't need more trials. They need confidence and some knowhow about their opponents. Johnson has been bowling so poorly except in brief but powerful glimmers until Headingley that he needs to be studied. He is now a real threat.

    Our team now seems completely shot. Well done management. And to expect Bell to come in without a struggle in Headingley conditions when he has been out of the team since February is frankly just ridiculous. He was under pressure at Edgbaston but at least managed a decent 53, 7 4s and 1 six. But a team holds players together. I couldn't believe he was batting at 4 in front of Colly who is a senior player and has been in situ all the time. Bell should have been at 5 his best Test position to give him the best possible chance. Isn't there anyone in management with any brains????

    As for Bopara, he is not a no 3. I predicted on 606 that he could be burnt in this Ashes Series like Bell was in 2005. Bell wasn't ready then and neither is Bopara now. And why isn't a senior player at 3? Would Australia bat a rookie at 3 in place of Ponting?

    Intelligence seems to be lacking in the man and team management. Bell is a natural Test no 5. I would say Bopara is a 6 type player. Surely I am not the only person to understand this? Besides which you cannot talk about a fragile batting order in one breath and have only five batsmen instead of six in your team!!!

  • Comment number 6.

    "They would have been better off studying the Aussie bowlers in action in their friendly game. These are all talented players. They don't need more trials. "

    Are they not able to do both, have much needed batting in the CC and then watch the Australia game over the weekend?

    I agree that they don't need a trial (and I hope that it is only the media that is hyping this as one), but they certainly looked like they need a bat before facing the Aussies again.

  • Comment number 7.

    Alison: "you don't become a terrible team overnight"
    Agree - but this has been a poor England team for some time, flattered by the apathy of the West Indies and the early poor performances of the Australians. England should have lost at Cardiff, and Australia had built a dangerous lead when time ran out at Edgebaston. Shorn of Peterson and Flintoff, this is a very mediocre team. We have no middle order and no-one with the consistency to lead the bowling. The depressing thing is the lack of alternatives

  • Comment number 8.

    Geoff Miller needs to pull himself together and pick up the phone to Marcus Trescothick. He's the best batsman we've produced since Gooch, and that includes Pietersen. Then Cook at 3 as someone has mentioned above. Collingwood as a senior player should have the stones to go up to 4, leaving 5 and maybe 6, depending on what balance we seek, for the bottlers Bell and/or Bopara or even Ramprakash or Trott or Key if you so fancy. It doesn't really matter... Trescothick is the key, and Miller needs to get over himself. What harm can a phone call do? It sounds to me like he doesn't really want to win the match.

  • Comment number 9.

    Geoff Miller needs to pull himself together and pick up the phone to Marcus Trescothick.


    How is it Miller's fault? Trescothick has said time and again that he is unavailable for selection, he does not want to play for the team again due to his stress issues, frankly his health is more important than the Ashes and I agree with him. The selctors are doing the right thing and respecting his wishes.

    As for Collinwood, it is not about his 'stones', he has played at 4 for England enough before, it is more that they have decided that his style is better suited at 5 to back up the more attacking batsmen at 4 and 6.

  • Comment number 10.

    I'd like to ask the TMS team there views on the following and apologies if this arrangement is already in place. This is in relation to test matches finishing early. It was actually my son who said "the fourth test at Headingly finished early and a commentator said - you can still come in tomorrow as all the lunchtime food has been ordered and will be delivered. So if people have paid for tickets, booked time off work and food has been ordered - why don't grounds have arrangements with junior sides to be on 'standby' to play a one day match on the test wicket, should there be one or more days available at the end of the test match"? What an amazing opportunity that would be for junior players. OK, you might have kids sitting round for some time and possibly missing out if the test goes all the way but ask any kid if they would be willing to do this and I think I know what the answer would be. Also it would give the paying public the opportunity to view the upcoming stars of the game that they normally would not take time to watch. As for the kids can you imagine their excitment playing in front of a large crowd.....

  • Comment number 11.

    Harmison has less guts than a worm, he had a purple patch (years ago) that he's never been near, before or since and has shown contempt for the honour of wearing the shirt before.
    Why anyone would want a feckless individual like this representing their country is beyond me.

  • Comment number 12.

    I have to agree with battingforbell. I reckon every other international side selects 6 batters, a wicket-keeper who bats and 4 'proper' bowlers. They rely on a batting all-rounder for some stock stuff. SO why on earth do England think they can get away with 5 batsmen? Especially the 5 they pick? Hardly a great one amongst them. I'd like to see England select Trescothick, Key and Ramprakash for this match; alongside Strauss, Bopara and either Collingwood or Bell in the top 6. Prior, Read or Foster can keep to Swann, Onions, Anderson and another bowler (I take it Flintoff will be fit and willing to bowl). Maybe England could use Bopara and Collingwood as stock bowlers if necessary.

  • Comment number 13.

    I think it was either Nasser Hussain or Alec Stewart who said in a Sky studio chat after the Headingley test that England should pick the best team for THIS match, i.e. treating the Oval test like a Cup final - it is the Ashes we are playing for after all! That's all that counts.

  • Comment number 14.

    One thing is rather metronomic and predictable in Oval expectations, Ravi Bopara will fail, yet again. So, what's to worry if you replace this passenger with a man who has loads of experience and who knows how to score oodles of runs?

    Go Ramps!

    Drop Bopara!

    With a solid batting lineup, England may yet pull it off. But no passengers, please! Will the England selectors pick the right team?

  • Comment number 15.

    I think the Trott situation is different as they clearly were considering playing an extra batsman at Headingley they were not bringing in someone to play number three and prevent our middle order being exposed too early. Plus as Alison rightly points out Key has been involved in the Lions and T20 squad, so is in good touch with the England setup. If we want an number three I don't think Trott is that option unless you shuffle your options and Bell has had his chances at three.

    I am not sure Key is a brilliant option, but nothing wrong with Alison's logic on guessing what the selectors will do. Mind you I don't want to second guess the selectors Darren Pattinson anyone?

    On Prior opening there is no way you can expect a wicket keeper to open in a test if he has not done so regularly in first class cricket, sorry, but limited overs does not count for the deciding test of an Ashes series. Alex Stewart did this, but firstly he started his career as an opener and he never made it a success of it. I am not even sure Prior is that good as a limited overs opener for England, much as I rate Prior's recent performances for the test side. Now I know I said I don't want to second guess selectors, but if they do that for me it would be iup there with Pattinson.

  • Comment number 16.

    How long is it going to take before people get it into their heads that TRESCOTHICK ISN'T GOING TO PLAY? I suppose they want him to play because of the hatfuls of Test centuries he's got against Australia (to save people from wasting their time looking them up, he hasn't got any in 30 innings).

  • Comment number 17.

    The England selectors will not make the right decisions! And you can bet on that! ...way too scared to!

  • Comment number 18.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 19.

    Of course they won't make the right decisions. Even if we win by an innings or more, half of the people on here are going to say, "oh they were lucky, I wouldn't have picked x, they should have played y and then they'd really have got a result". The selectors know they can't win just as they know that at the same time as they have to deal with your accusations of cowardice, they will have to deal with accusations of returns to the "revolving-door" policies of disloyalty of the 90s. They can't win.

  • Comment number 20.

    England should stick with their plans…
    Surely they should only stick with the part of the plans that have worked? Was it part of their plans for batsmen 3, 4 and 5 to perform so badly in the series so far? I hardly think so. Also, would those plans that worked against Australia at Lords still be good enough against them now? I doubt it, because Australia is now playing much better.
    It reminds me of the saying: “The definition of madness is to do the same thing over and over again and expect to get different results”.
    … and be attuned to how much the Aussies would love to see them veer off course and make drastic changes after one - albeit very hefty - defeat
    That sums up a whole English problem: always being too concerned about what the other side thinks. Sorry, England should not be thinking for one millisecond of what Australia would or would not love to see, but, as previous posts have also suggested, pick the best team to win this match.
    That, for me, means going for Ramps at no. 3, not only because he is and has been the form player of the past 3 years, but, contrary to what is being said in the media at the moment about bottling against top opposition, he actually has the best test average against Australia of any English batsman currently fit and playing (42.40). In fact, over the last 20 years, he has the fifth best average of any English batsmen against Australia (behind Pietersen, Vaughan, Thorpe and Gower and excluding Emburey’s two innings). Check it out.

  • Comment number 21.

    Re comment no 8: "Geoff Miller needs to pull himself together and pick up the phone to Marcus Trescothick." - No Tresco is the one who needs to pull himself together and make himself available to play and COMMIT himself to England to be considered for selection.

    Key is clearly the only choice at number 3. Number 3 is a position for an opener or someone prepared and used to facing the new ball, which Key is. I believe Trott, Bopara and Bell are more talented stroke players, but all incapable of playing at 3 for England. They are suited to 4/5/6, where they have more licence to play their shots.

    The blog is spot on about Ramps. Great county player, but he has never been in England's plans for now or the future so should be overlooked. The comments stating that Key is in the same boat are inaccurate. He may not have been picked yet, but has been considered proved by the fact that he is the Lions captain.

    Come on England!

  • Comment number 22.

    Bell must go. How many years has he been playing in the team only to dissapoint every series. Its great to have potential but surely eventually it must come to fruition. Bopara is the future, his eventual spot is probably 5 after Pieterson so why not put him there now. Collingwood is next to go. He is not an all rounder because he never bowls and his batting has badly gone down hill. I like Key at 3 for now. He is young enough to be more than a stop gap. As a pom living in OZ I dont know enough about the current crop of up and coming English talent.
    It seems we have bowlers up the gazoo but no batting all rounders. For this final test I would like to see Strauss, Cook, Key, Collingwood (replacement for Pieterson only) Bopara, Pryor, Flintoff, Broad, Swann, Anderson or Harmy (depending on wicket) and Onions.

    In the future probably need to replace Cook, find a number 6, cry for the loss of Freddie, hope Broad improves even more as an all rounder. Look for a batsman who can contribute some decent spin.

  • Comment number 23.

    Yes, I'm sure we're all aware of Mark Ramprakash's impressive Test record against Australia. Let's analyse his innings a little more closely:

    5th Test of 1994/95 Ashes: 72 and 42 (at no. 6 and no. 7 respectively) - Australia won by 329 runs

    6th Test of 1997 Ashes series: 4 and 48 (both at no. 6) - England won by 19 runs, with the series already lost

    1st Test of 1998/99 Ashes series: 69* and 14 (both at no. 6) - Draw

    2nd Test: 26 and 47* (both at no. 5) - Australia won by 7 wickets

    3rd Test: 61 and 57 (both at no. 5) - Australia won by 205 runs

    4th Test: 63 (at no. 5) and 14 (at no. 6) - England won by 12 runs, with the series already lost.

    5th Test: 14 and 14 (both at no. 4) - Australia won by 98 runs

    2nd Test of 2001 Ashes series: 14 and 40 (both at no. 5) - Australia won by 8 wickets

    3rd Test: 14 and 26 (both at no. 4) - Australia won by 7 wickets

    4th Test: 40 and 32 (both at no. 5) - England won by 6 wickets, with the series already lost

    5th Test: 133 and 19 (both at no. 5) - Australia won by an innings and 25 runs

    To me this shows two things:

    1) Mark Ramprakash has never beaten Australia unless the Ashes series has already been lost.

    2) Mark Ramprakash has never batted above no. 4 in a Test against Australia.

    3) Mark Ramprakash's only Test century against Australia was in an innings defeat and followed a score of 641/4 by Australia.

    4) If you want a player who can score 14 against Australia, Ramprakash is your man.

    Incidentally, if you're interested, here are Ramprakash's Test scores batting at 3:

    2, 5, 23, 1, 20, 3, 19, 9, 4, 0, 24 (average of 10)

    He was also a Test opener for a while. He scored:

    15, 56 (against Zimbabwe), 4, 18, 0, 0, 2 (average of 13.57)

    Make of this information what you will.

  • Comment number 24.

    I'm gonna have to stop reading all these blogs, I'm getting more and more confused. As far as I can work out there are plenty of reasons to pick Ramprakash:
    1) He has averaged 100 per season in three out of the last four seasons (and got close to it in the fourth)
    2)His best Test performances (giving him a better average than our current players are managing) were against the Aussies, batting up the order.
    3) Those Aussie Test performances were against a much stronger bowling attack (Warne, McGrath et al) than the Aussies have got at the moment
    4) The last Test is at The Oval where he scores runs like he's on piece rate.
    5) He's not just the best (available) batsman at the moment, he has been for several years
    6) He's got more incentive than anyone: he knows this is definitely the last chance saloon and only a superb performance in both innings will give him any chance of further England caps, even Rob Key has marginally better chances than that and all the debutants know that even two first-ball ducks aren't going to rule them out completely.
    7) He would be a popular choice. The English crowds love a fairytale ending. They may well get one with a golden performance from Flintoff but if they got that AND a couple of centuries from Ramps, half of The Oval would be just about apoplectic with glee.
    8) If he fails, he can easily be discarded by the selectors without having to worry about whether they've destroyed / damaged another promising young career.
    And yet, and yet... Do we really want to pin all our hopes on a 2nd division Test failure who's learned all he knows about mental toughness from a tv game show?
    I'd hate to be a selector

  • Comment number 25.

    englishmilk, so who do you suggest Cook is replaced with? He averages about 42.20 as an opener, which is reasonably good for an opener (Gooch averaged 43.88, Trescothick 43.78, Strauss 44.20 and Atherton 39.14). He's also averaging nearly 50 this year, and he's still only 24 years old, so there's still time for him to get even better. Yes, he's had a pretty poor Ashes series, but I don't think he deserves to be dropped.

  • Comment number 26.

    Too right. For this Test we want to be making as few changes as we can. Save the big shuffling for SA. The selectors won't want to break up his partnership with Strauss and we haven't got a better No2 at the moment so play him.

  • Comment number 27.

    I agree, we shouldn’t pin our hopes on any one player (although England seem to have been doing that with KP over past few years), but can certainly go for a couple of improvements to the present batting line-up. Everyone has their own opinion on how to do that.
    Nice stats – I can’t wait to see the ones you pull up in comparison for Cook, Bell, Key and Bopara (against Australia, of course).

  • Comment number 28.

    This is a one-off test that requires the best team to win.
    We need right hand left hand open combo and Key is excellent against fast bowling. Cook for me is a natural no. 3 and has the game for that position. Ramprakash is only real replacement for Pieterson. Prior can bat at 5 and his test record proves that and Flintoff if fit at 6 where he has batted for majority of his career. To win the game england need 20 wickets with a varied attack. I would go with Rashid and Swann as spin options with Rashid strengthening batting at 7, The oval pitch will suit Harmison and Broad more as hit the deck bowlers and I leave Anderson in as new ball bowler.

    I would go with:


  • Comment number 29.

    I think it would be an act of kindness to bury those stats, especially Bopara's. Poor kid's probably got enough sleepless nights, as it is. I think the one stat we should be concentrating on is P4 W1 D2 L1 ie it's 1-1 with one to play. The pitch and the weather mean that it'll probably finish 1-1 but, in spite of that, we can still win it. And this is not a superteam we're up against. It's a partially inexperienced, less confident than normal bunch who have proven that they're capable of losing. We CAN win.

  • Comment number 30.

    Who would be a selector? I think they've got an almost impossible job to do here...

    We only have 2 world-class players - one of those is out, and the other is running on fumes. If you look around the county circuit, there's lots of talented players, but very few (none?) who really have what it takes to perform at the highest level, particularly in the pressure-cauldron of an Ashes series.

    For what it's worth, here's what I would do (assuming Freddie is fit):

    - Drop Ravi - his head's clearly not right, and I just can't see him performing at the Oval
    - My heart says bring in Ramps, but my head says Key - he has the experience and technique to cope at the top of the order
    - Onions or Sidebottom in for Harmison (when will the selectors learn that he simply doesn't do it for England?)
    - Stick with Bell - he's clearly got problems with his mental approach, but he's a quality player, and I can't see that it makes sense to bring in an untried debutant like Trott for such a high pressure match

    And finally, while I agree that England haven't become a terrible team overnight, they have always been hugely fragile and capable of self-destructing under pressure... How we sort that one out though I don't know!

  • Comment number 31.

    It's an open & shut case...... we need our best players for this match. And the best players are the ones who're in form - Key, Ramps & Trott - that's what the middle order should be.

    Bopara & Bell might well be the future, and surely will play for England again, but not next week please. We need the players who are most likely to perform best, and these three have walked the talk.

    Having said all that, it's upto the bowlers to get the twenty Aussie wickets, so could they please stand up? Please? We could go on all night about the middle order, but if ever there was a time to focus on the guys who can win it for us - this is it. Fred's already raring to go, can we please have some statements of intent from Anderson, Broad & co.?

  • Comment number 32.

    I would go with:


    I'd go with Harmison on the proviso that the pitch will be hard and bouncy with no swing likely (which is usual for th Oval) - if not, I'd give sidey a go, or Rashid if it dooes look like spinning profusely (would need to do so in the first innings as we have to bowl them out twice!). Key, as a more steady mentally strong opener, should come in for Bopara at 3, and I'd give Trott a go instead of Bell, as he lacks mental strength, which is required against the Aussies, and I just can't see him scoring a ton (that's not to say his Test career is over. I'd also be flexible with the order, which is something we tend not to do, if we are 250-2, I'd bring Trott or Prior up the order to play some shots before the second NB and allow Collie to dig it out and hang around with the tail.

  • Comment number 33.

    Rob Key averages 31 in test cricket for England. This is largely due to his one and only score above 100 (221 vs a very poor west indies a few years back), without this score his average would be 23. His one day average for England is 11.

    He has played against Australia before and failed miserably. I point this out to all the posters who think that Rob key has not played for England before and needs to be given a chance. Been there, done that. Let there be no doubt that if we replace Bell or Bopara with Key, we are bringing in an infinitely poorer batsman than either of them.

    However, it does seem they both need to be replaced to give England the best chance of competing in the final test. As theballwatcher has pointed out above, Ramprakash has the fifth best average of any English batsmen playing Australia in the last twenty years. No mean feat considering he was up against two of the all time greats in Warne and Mcgrath.

    Tomaths' counter argument that he only did it in a losing or meaningless cause is pointless because England were always losing to Australia! That makes his runs more impressive, not less so, similar to Brian Lara or Shivnarine Chanderpaul of West Indies putting up resistence while the Windies lost nearly every test series they played - would you consider their runs meaningless even though the windies mainly lost when they scored them? Of course not, that was the overall poor quality of the team, they could only do what they could.

    Moving on to another vital component for England - the bowling. If England are to regain the ashes, we need 20 wickets, something I cannot see being provided by Harmison and Anderson on a flat track.

    So finally then, my team for the Oval is:

    Strauss (c)
    Trott/Shah (it almost doesn't matter which one)

  • Comment number 34.

    We need to win this final test, regardless of whether we intend on selecting the players who feature again.

    Everyone seems to have in in for collingwood, have we all forgotton his heroics in the first test??? without his innings we would be 2-1 down in the series. Bopara is no way a tes number three, more like a 6. Rob Key has previous international experience and seems the best choice for three. Bell or Ramprakash??? i think they both have just as much chance of suceeding so that could go either way.

    finally i think although onions has bowled well this series, he should be swapped for harmison as the pitch at the oval will suit harmison more. so final team...


    Good luck England!

  • Comment number 35.

    England middle order
    Bell and Collingwood out
    3 Key
    4 Trott
    5 Bopara
    6 Broad

  • Comment number 36.

    Gentleman, we have sorted out the batting to score hopefully 600 in our first innings, but we need to bowl the opposition out twice i.e. take 20 wickets with what?

    Our bowling lacks consistency, one man Freddie will not take 20 wickets. People say the Oval is a spinners wicket , which two spinners would you have in tandem, Swann, Panesar, Rashid, Tredwell or A N Other? Will they get wickets or just stop runs

  • Comment number 37.

    Bit sick and tired of hearing about Trescothick being so wonderful, he played 76 tests for England and basically was a flat-track bully. His stats are very marginally better overall than Ian Bells, but whereas Bell has played a quarter of his games against a superb Aus attack, Trescothick plundered popgun Zimbabwe and Bangladeshi attacks.
    His record against Australia - played 15 tests and scored the grand total of how many tons..........................none.

    Tres was a very good one day player, but his lack of foot movement was exposed against top attacks at test level, I have little doubt that he would have fared better than the rest of the team at Headingly. Tres averaged 33 against Australia and 33 against Pakistan, who were the best two attacks around when he was playing, he scored 1 century in 25 tests against those two teams. He was a decent opening bat at test level, but not the Hero and great batsman that every one is making him out to be at test level.

  • Comment number 38.

    Regarding Marcus Trescothick...

    I agree whole-heartedly with the comments above. Seems to be there's a bit of rose-tinted revisionism going on!

    Trescothick was a fine attacking opening batsman and a player who could play an exciting innings on his day. I am amused by the comment that he was our 'best batsman produced since Gooch'. Hmmm. It's only an opinion, but I think Alec Stewart, Robin Smith, Graham Thorpe, Michael Vaughan and Kevin Pietersen are/were all better Test batsmen than Marcus Trescothick. This would make him most definitely not our best batsman since Gooch.

    Also I really cannot understand the cries for Ramprakash. He's mullered some county attacks over the last 5 years but Hick was amazing in county cricket too. Both played numerous Tests for England over the years and both consistently failed - Ramps more so than Hick. Most of Ramprakash's big runs were scored when Tests were dead rubbers at the end of series. It is proven that when pressure is on, he struggles mentally. The blog made a very good point that he was stick on 99 centuries in 1st class cricket for ages because suddenly there was pressure on him to reach a milestone. Again, even in county cricket, he struggled with pressure. He's not the man for The Oval.

  • Comment number 39.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 40.

    As an australian im understandably excited by the form we displayed in the last test similiar to beating south africa away.our batters are in form and our bowlers are hitting there saying this its a whole new ball game come the 5th test.So much depends on who holds their nerve in the first hour of play.Thats why it so important that england have to keep cook and strauss at the top of order for starters,BOPARA HAS GOT TO GO,end of talking about him,bring prior up to three,to play his shots and take on the ausssies in a bold and attacking move,oh thats right im talking about the english selectors.At four is collingwood,hes had a few failures but hes one of the few who has the stomach for the battle as he has shown in thge past against warne and mcgrath,at five i would like to put flintoff but with his knee he will have to bat at six,ramps and key please dont make me laugh,been down this road before,and the scenery isnt pretty,time to give trott a run,see what hes made off,hes down the order so he can can a feel for the game before hes in,at seven broad,still not convinced hes ready for test cricket but his lat test was very encouraging,brings balance at seven.At eight swann,he needs to stay more patient,it would help if srauss showed more confidence in him,not waiting hours to throw him the ball.All australian batsman dont like facing spin straight up dont forget,(except clarke).At nine is anderson..line and length ,fullstop.At ten it has to be Harmison,hes one of the few bowlers we fear.Strauss has to bowl him in short spells.if someone can tie up one end,Harmison can go through australia.I can hear the complaints that hes soft from down under,but the fact is that you need twenty wickets and hes capable of getting six or seven wickets for the match.At eleven its got to be onions,he ripped through us in edgbaston with a great display of line and length,swing,omce again its up to strauss to think on his feet and use him at the appropriate time
    (opposite Harmison),tying up a end or opening up with him with flintoff.England have competed for the magority of the series,even dominating at times,so theres no need to panic,just time for the public and fans at the ground to turn it into a true english home ground experience by singing the anthem at the top of your voice,screaming your new ball bowlers in so the atmosphere makes the aussies weak at the kness for the first few overs cannot not be underestimated.As for the players,jump on freddies big shoulders and give it ALL you for the austraians,no changes,good luck boys.

  • Comment number 41.

    The only thing sillier than suggesting Bopara stays is that Ramprakash replaces him.

    No disrespect to Bopara - he may ge good one day - but if he plays and fails again (and under the pressure he will have that is more than likely) he may never play for England again. As for Ramprakash - oh what a good idea, a player who is great against mediocre bowling but we KNOW can't hack it under real pressure against the good stuff. Just the guy for an Ashes decider - NOT! Except oh yes, he's great now he's been on Come Dancing. Give me strength.....

    So who Do we pick? Well, given the apparently correct perception that English players fold under pressure - note our best bat by far is Strauss and where's he come from.... go for Trott, at least he's South African. Harmison had his chance and blew it - time Sidebottom got a (belated) recall. We can't drop Broad, as even if he did get wickets solely because the others left them all for him, he's got guts, and we need every run we can get. Bell? Well he CAN bat, on his day, and his record as somebody pointed out above is way better than Key. So - Trott for Bopara, Flintoff for Harmison, take the risk with Bell, and I'd go for Sidebottom instead of Onions for the variety of a left-armer.

  • Comment number 42.

    Why is everyone always calling for Collingwood's head? What's the bloke got to do to make you understand he's not some underperforming dead-weight the rest of the team have to haul around?

    In the last 12 months (13 Tests) he's scored 851 Test runs at an average of 47, including 3 centuries.

    In the same time period the great Kevin Pietersen has scored 757 runs at the same average, but with only 2 centuries.

    Haven't heard too many calls for KP to be dropped lately.

  • Comment number 43.

    your spot on jimmers75 with collingwood,regarding telnolies comment,surly u cant stick with the sherminator who is turning into a bunny for the australians,as for sidebottom,i agree that it would be good to have some variety,in australia we regard him as to slow,whats his form been like of late.Dont forget the aussies are always facing johnson in the nets at 15okm.

  • Comment number 44.

    I think Trott will do the business if selected and hold his own against the Aussie bowlers. However, I'm worried greatly about the inclusion of Panesar. How can you pick someone to face the Aussies in the final test of the Ashes series, when he is clearly lacking in confidence and performance?

    Having said that, I hope Trott gets a hundred and Panesar takes seven to eight wickets and England take the Ashes in glorious fashion.


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