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Jonathan Agnew column

Fifth Ashes Test, The Oval: England v Australia
Dates: Thursday, 20 August to Monday, 24 August Start time: 1100 BST
Coverage: Live Test Match Special commentary (from 1025 BST on day one, 1045 BST on remaining days) on BBC Radio 4 LW, 5 live sports extra, the Red Button and BBC Sport website. Live text commentary on BBC Sport website and mobile phones. Also live on Sky Sports.

Jonathan Agnew
By Jonathan Agnew
BBC cricket correspondent

Monty Panesar in action for England in the nets
England's biggest worry is the form of Monty Panesar, and a key decision will be whether or not to go with two spinners

So after a week of great debate, just one change has been confirmed with Jonathan Trott - the next batsman in line - coming in at number four with Ian Bell moving up to three.

Of course it is a huge gamble bringing in a debutant to such an important game - but no more than continuing with Ravi Bopara, who looked increasingly out of his depth.

I am sure that Bopara will return to the England ranks after this disappointment, but I hope not at three.

He is a free-scoring batsman, and rather casual with it so unless he can tighten up his technique, he looks destined for a place lower in the order.

Bell's return to three will have a mixed reception. After 16 Tests there, he has never scored a century and lost that key position following England's calamitous collapse in Jamaica in February.

Frustratingly, he should be more successful there than his average of 31 suggests and if he fails this week, I really have no idea who will be batting at number at three in the first Test against South Africa this winter.

Bell must look at this as a surprisingly quick opportunity to make that position his own.

But if we are honest, the Australians will not be losing much sleep over this minor tinkering to the England team.

I am not sure that the introduction of any other player would have that affect.

Clearly, Marcus Trescothick is by miles the best player not to be in this squad, but he has retired and that is that.

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I advocated Rob Key because I believe he is the phlegmatic and experienced sort of character who might have soaked up the pressure of this one-off Test better than the others, but there is a solid argument for Trott who has been in good form again this summer for Warwickshire.

England's biggest worry is the form of Monty Panesar, and a key decision will be whether or not to go with two spinners.

Panesar's summer has been nothing short of dreadful - just 10 first class wickets in the second division at an average of 71.

His confidence must be rock-bottom, and it would be a brave selector to put him in, but England have to win the game and conditions helpful to the spinners should give them an advantage over Australia.

It is also true, surely, that Panesar could not bowl as badly as his colleagues managed at Headingley?



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see also
England gamble on uncapped Trott
16 Aug 09 |  England
Cook and Bopara see Essex to win
14 Aug 09 |  Counties
Watson shines as Aussies dominate
15 Aug 09 |  Cricket
Trescothick rules out Test return
13 Aug 09 |  England
Trott gets surprise England call
04 Aug 09 |  England
Trott and Bell put Bears in game
13 Aug 09 |  Counties
Aussies win to level Ashes series
09 Aug 09 |  England


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