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Page last updated at 12:45 GMT, Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Jonathan Agnew's Ashes column

Jonathan Agnew
By Jonathan Agnew
BBC cricket correspondent

Tim Bresnan and Andrew Strauss
Australian batsmen are quite comfortable cutting and pulling. This is another reason I would opt for Bresnan, whose natural length is a little fuller and more reliable than that of Tremlett

Jonathan Agnew

England can retain the Ashes this week and the team hotel is buzzing with good cheer and genuine optimism.

With their wives and children now firmly on board, the players are very relaxed, yet focused.

It will be a major surprise to me if they fail in their mission over the next five days.

It is not Andrew Strauss's style to name his team until the morning of the match, so we were not expecting news of Stuart Broad's replacement during his press conference.

It is not a straightforward decision; like-for-like points the finger firmly at 6ft 7in (2 metres) Chris Tremlett, but with only four bowlers to turn to, Strauss has to be convinced of his reliability under pressure as well as his ability to bowl a meaningful spell or two into the strong breeze.

This is where Tim Bresnan will come into consideration, and would be my preference.

The pitch is green and hard enough for Ricky Ponting seriously to consider playing a four-man pace attack.

This might also have something to do with the unbelievable decision by Australia's selectors to choose Michael Beer - a left-arm spinner in his first season of first-class cricket.

Nothing against Beer, who bowled steadily against England in the warm-up match here six weeks ago, but it smacks of absolute panic and uncertainty - and has left Australia's cricket followers with gaping jaws.

Ponting was left searching for control - and failing to find it at Adelaide. To usher in another spinner of such inexperience is extraordinary under the circumstances.

Strauss plays down bowler selection

Steve Smith is only a part-time leg spinner, who was dismantled by Ian Bell in the game against Australia A. He is not yet capable of playing the role of the solitary, lead slow bowler in a Test line-up but he is a decent batsman.

It might be, however, that the selectors should have eyed up the pitch and kept Marcus North in the squad before jettisoning him completely.

If the pitch has the pace and bounce that its colour and appearance suggests it might, it will test the discipline of England's batsmen and bowlers.

The extra bounce and carry takes time to adjust to for all the batsmen who must all take time and patience at the start of the innings to get used to what are, for English players, very alien conditions.

They have performed poorly here in recent series not merely because of shortcomings in the way they have batted, but because the fast bowlers could not hit the right length.

When the ball flies dramatically through to the wicketkeeper, it is very tempting to get carried away and bowl too short.

Australian batsmen, being fine players off the back foot, are quite comfortable cutting and pulling and this is another reason I would opt for Bresnan, whose natural length is a little fuller and more reliable than that of Tremlett.

Ex-Aussie batsman Justin Langer

Were England contemplating five bowlers, I might think differently.

With Australia in such disarray that they will field an entirely different attack for the third time in this series, and make up to five changes from the last match, they do appear ripe for the taking.

England have the confidence and the form behind them finally to bury their unhappy recent history and become the first team to win the Ashes here for the first time in a generation.

Catch up with Agnew and Boycott's TMS podcasts (worldwide)

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see also
Australia deserve flak - Ponting
15 Dec 10 |  Australia
Strauss buoyed by Anderson return
15 Dec 10 |  England
Strauss plays down bowler selection
15 Dec 10 |  England
Langer unsure of Perth significance
15 Dec 10 |  Australia
Aussies eye pace quartet for Test
14 Dec 10 |  Australia
England seek win to retain Ashes
14 Dec 10 |  Cricket
Anderson returns to see new baby
10 Dec 10 |  England
Broad to join Test Match Special
13 Dec 10 |  Test Match Special
Upbeat Beer poised for Test debut
13 Dec 10 |  Australia
England complete Adelaide triumph
07 Dec 10 |  Cricket
Records fall as England draw Test
29 Nov 10 |  Cricket
England in Australia 2010-11
08 Oct 09 |  Cricket

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