Australia will target England’s vulnerable middle order in an effort to force the victory which will give them a 2-1 Ashes series victory in the fifth Test starting at the Oval on Thursday.
Ravi Bopara, Ian Bell and Paul Collingwood failed to reach double figures in either innings in the fourth Test at Headingley which Australia won within three days to level the series 1-1.
Jonathan Trott has been selected to make his debut in place of Bopara and will bat at five with Bell and Collingwood moving up to three and four respectively.
Although Australia need only a draw to ensure they retain the Ashes, the manner of their victory in Leeds and their all-round superiority may persuade them to play an all-pace attack with Stuart Clark and Brett Lee competing for the final place.
Captain Ricky Ponting and the Australian selectors planned to assess the conditions again during their final practice session on Wednesday before deciding to go with pace or recall off-spinner Nathan Haurtiz.
The forecast is not good for Thursday with rain predicted after a week of sunshine but the pitch looks a typical Oval product with pace and bounce and plenty of runs.
“The opportunities are there if we can knock the openers over nice and early,” Ponting told a news conference on Wednesday.
“That’s how we will look at it. There’s no doubt that the middle order of Bell, Trott and Collingwood are going to be under different kinds of pressure at different times during this game.
PRESSURE ON BELL
“We will have to start well and play with the same type of attitude we did last week. We know what we have to do, we know what’s ahead of us and we are all excited about being out there and doing it.”
Bell averages 31 at number three compared to an overall average nearly 10 points higher when he bats lower in the order and he will shoulder huge responsibility in the pivotal batting spot.
“Belly is a maturing character,” Strauss said. “He hasn’t set the world on fire at three but he’s played some important innings.
“He’s good against pace and he’s good against spin and this is a fantastic opportunity to show his talent.”
Strauss has urged his team to say calm in the biggest Test match staged in England since the equivalent game in 2005 when the hosts secured the draw they needed to regain the Ashes.
“The important thing about a test match is that you can’t win on day one, you’ve got to earn the right to win the game and that means playing good, solid cricket for the first three days or so,” he said.
“So it’s not a case of particularly forcing the pace, it’s about wrestling the initiative away over the course of the first three days.”