Australia has confirmed its overwhelming cricketing superiority over its former colonial masters in the last two Ashes Tests at Perth, winning at a canter in 2002 and 2006 to gain an unassailable 3-0 lead in the series.
But this time is different, and having survived the Gabbatoir and then extinguished the horrors of Adelaide in 2006, England know a win at the WACA - where they have only won once - would see them retain the Ashes before Christmas.
They may never get a better chance. Australia would appear to be in complete disarray with the selectors doing a passable impersonation of England in the 1990's. Simon Katich's injury means that Phil Hughes comes in to open the innings and Steve Smith replaces the discarded Marcus North in the lower middle order. The seamers may be juggled again, but the biggest surprise of all is the pick of left arm spinner Michael Beer - a man with just six first-class matches to his name.
England have no such problems and James Anderson will hope to make a similarly impressive contribution as Kevin Pietersen when he popped back to England for the birth of his son in the World T20 - even if Bob Willis may not be amused. England have dominated the last seven days of the series and if they can repeat the trick at the WACA then the urn will be theirs and Australia may just capitulate completely.
The only selection debate for England is whether to go with Tremlett, Bresnan or Shahzad to replace the injured Broad. Otherwise they will be unchanged.
Australia are pondering over a three or four man seam attack, with Beer making his debut if it is the latter and either Siddle or Hilfenhaus missing out if it is the former.
Look out for…
Chris Tremlett has not been confirmed as Broad’s replacement yet, but if he plays his fourth test and his first since 2007, he should enjoy the bouncy WACA wicket and a man of the match performance is not out of the question.
It will be a surprise if Mitchell Johnson doesn’t come back into the Australian line-up, with Ponting and his selectors fully aware that the misfiring Johnson is their most likely match-winner on his home ground. He took 8 for 61 on this ground against South Africa in 2008-09, so England’s batsmen may finally be about to find what all the fuss is about.
The Pitch – It would seem that the WACA pitch could return to the lively track of old if curator Cameron Sutherland is to be believed: "We're going to aim for a fair bit of grass on top this year. Certainly, we want a result and we're confident that we'll have a pitch that will produce a result." Could this play into England’s hands given they would appear to have the most settled and potent attack?
Previously at Perth
A look back at the record books shows that England have an abysmal record at Perth, winning only one out of 11 Tests. Australia have won seven and England have been on the receiving end of some fearsome beatings in the last five WACA contests.
2006 – Australia won by 206 runs – Monty Panesar made a belated entry into the series and took five for 92 on day one as Australia were bowled out for 244. England were unable to take advantage though and folded for 215 before Australia racked up the runs second time around with Hussey, Clarke and Gilchrist all making hundreds – the latter off only 57 balls. Cook made a hundred, but England could only reach 350 and the Ashes were gone.
2002 – Australia won by an innings and 48 - England and in particular Alex Tudor were terrorised on a quick Perth wicket by Brett Lee. England could only make 185 and 223 as the game finished on the 3rd day, which meant that Australia had secured the Ashes again on just the 11th day of the series
1998 – Australia won by 7 wickets – Another dreadful Perth experience for England as they were shot out for just 112 on the opening day in just 39 overs. Tudor had a better WACA experience than he would have four years later and took four for 89 on debut. Again, England were only able to take the game into the third day.
1978 – England won by 166 runs - England’s only Test win at the WACA came against an Australian team ravaged by World Series Cricket defections. David Gower scored 102 and Rodney Hogg took 10 wickets as Australia fell well short of their victory target of 328.
Despite the curator's promise of a green and bouncy wicket, the WACA has lost much of its hostile reputation in recent years, so England's top six could be set to cash in again. This Englishman may regret his bravado, but we go for England to break their Perth hoodoo to give Strauss the best of early Christmas presents.
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