It all comes down to today for Australia: win the test and they are still in with a chance of winning back the Ashes. Draw or Lose this test then England have retained the Ashes.
Here are my keys to victory for Australia from tonight’s play:
1. Rain, rain go away … come back to visit another day!
Obviously Australia needs as much time as possible to bowl out England and that means that it needs blue skies throughout the day. Looking at the forecast, it certainly does not look like that will eventuate but we can only live in hope.
2. When will Australia declare?
The obvious move for Australia is to declare overnight and take all over possible to win the game. That said, if the weather radar is clear and I was the captain I would be tempted to bat for another 7 to 10 overs. That way the English opening batsmen have not had all morning to prepare and only get the advantage of the 10 minute hand over. If that was Australia’s strategy they would only lose the overs and two over for a change over.
3. The Captain’s Tactics
Michael Clarke will need to present his best tactical performance as a captain in this innings to win the game. He must be happy to use Nathan Lyon even during periods where he is being yet and must avoid the temptation to overuse Ryan Harris.
4. Come in Spinner
If Australia’s spinners (Lyon and Smith), take 6 wickets between them then Australia wins the game. This is Nathan Lyon’s chance to kill off all of the doubters who say he is not a test calibre bowler because he has not bowled Australia to victory as yet. There is no better opportunity than the present.
5. Get the unholy trinity and the rest will follow
The big wickets for Australia today are Cooke, Pietersen and Bell. If all three of those batters are removed for less than 20 apiece then it will be game on in Manchester.
Obviously, the weather presents a massive obstacle to Australia’s chances and a draw is the most likely result. If Australia is to win all of the foregoing keys to victory MUST come together for Australia.
Go the baggy greens!