England still have the upper hand going into the final two Tests of the Ashes series, needing only one more win to retain the coveted urn against Australia.
Australia go into tomorrow’s fourth Melbourne Test fuelled by the momentum from their 267-run victory in Perth, which leveled the series at 1-1, but they cannot afford a slip-up in the last two matches.
“We always talk about the last two Tests in a series being where things are won and lost,” England skipper Andrew Strauss said yesterday. “The first few games set it up and the last couple bring it home. That is the challenge for us.”
A dilemma for Australia will be whether to retain the four-man pace attack that was so effective in Perth or call up untried spinner Michael Beer at the MCG. Australia have never gone into an MCG Test without a frontline spinner.
“We’ve got to take all these things into consideration when we pick the team, but we also have to pick what we think is the best balanced attack for the conditions and the opposition we’re playing against,” Australia captain Ricky Ponting said.
Concern eased yesterday over whether Ponting will miss the Melbourne Test after he broke the little finger on his left hand while attempting a catch in Perth.
“He said it felt pretty good after facing some balls on the machines and facing the bowlers [in the nets],” Australia vice-captain Michael Clarke said yesterday.
“We’re all hopeful and confident. He’s going to have to wait until tomorrow [Saturday] to see how it pulls up after having a bat today but he’s pretty happy with how things went today,” he said.