England must keep momentum as Australia welcome back warriors

On Monday, when Lee was admitted to a Birmingham hospital with an infection to his left knee, and with McGrath still struggling to recover from the ankle he twisted badly before the Edgbaston Test, it appeared that neither would be fit to play in today's third Ashes Test. Yet, after successfully coming through yesterday's practice session, both could make a dramatic return to Australia's starting XI.

Lee is certain to play after completing a 20-minute bowl and McGrath will join him should he wake up this morning with no reaction to yesterday's workout. The sight of these two opening the bowling will be a huge boost for Australia four days after losing to England by two runs at Edgbaston.

Lee spent two days attached to an intravenous drip but showed no discomfort during his workout and left the field smiling. McGrath did not bowl flat out during his two spells, but appears to have done enough to convince the selectors he is worthy of a place in the side. The fast bowler has not bowled for a week but even at 80 per cent he is well capable of troubling England's batsmen.

Playing McGrath will be something of a gamble but it is hard to keep a champion out of the action for long. He will be desperate to play and put Australia back in front. As a fast bowler he is used to playing through pain and before he had an operation to remove a bone spur on his left ankle, he constantly did. But bowling 50 overs in a Test match puts a fully-fit body through a lot and McGrath will be aware of the debilitating effect an injury can have on his skills.

England's players will convince themselves that the possible presence of these two will change very little. They will believe the momentum is with them following the remarkable two-run victory at Edgbaston. But it is just the tonic Australia needed. At the press conferences which followed at Edgbaston, it was difficult to tell which captain had won the match before the questioning began. Ricky Ponting, the Australian captain, was cool, calm and relaxed, while Vaughan looked shattered.

To win a match of such importance and nail-biting intensity would normally give the victors a huge advantage, but highs of this stature tend to be followed by hangovers and it could be difficult for England to reach such levels so soon. Against most teams, England would be able to get away with this but when facing Australia you have to perform to your best during every session of play.

"The emotions of Sunday morning were bound to take their toll but I am alright now," said an enthusiastic Vaughan. "There is a chance of us suffering from a hangover but we have to make sure it doesn't happen and we start the game in a positive fashion. Our start at Edgbaston really set the tone for the game. We played instinctively and we have do the same here. It is important to get on top of good sides early and stay in front."

England are set to name an unchanged team, although they are monitoring the fitness of Matthew Hoggard. Hoggard has looked pretty innocuous in the first two Test matches and has been having treatment on his right knee. Should the joint flare up, or England's selectors deem the pitch more suitable for a tall fast bowler, Chris Tremlett will make his debut. The pitch is dry, hard and flat. It will offer quick pace and bounce but at the same time will be good to bat on. In the opening two Test matches no player has scored a hundred but it would be a surprise if this remained the case. Old Trafford has always been a good place to bat and the figures back this up. In the last 12 Test matches here there have been 30 three-figure scores and only six five-wicket hauls. Yet it has not been a happy ground for England. England's last victory here over Australia was in 1981, and they have won only three of the 18 Test matches played since Ian Botham strutted his stuff.

"This series is the biggest challenge of my captaincy," admitted Ponting, who took charge of Australia in January 2004. "But the way we came back in the last innings at Edgbaston was very good for our confidence. It is a surprise that no batsman has faced more than 150 balls in a Test innings. Our top order have got off to good starts and then just got out. We pride ourselves on big partnerships and guys making big individual scores and we just have not got there yet. We have just got to be hungrier and bat for longer periods of time.

"It just seems like the last two Tests have been in fast forward, it has been remarkable cricket so far. If we can get the game into the fifth day we will be happy because it means the whole tempo would have slowed down and hopefully that means some of our guys will have batted for extended periods which we need to do to win Test matches."

Australia's batting woes have been made up for by the brilliance of Shane Warne, who has already taken 16 wickets. These dismissals have taken his Test tally to 599 and it is fitting that he will become the first bowler to reach 600 wickets at this venue. Warne did not make his Test debut at Old Trafford but it was here on 4 June 1993 that the legend was born when he bowled Mike Gatting with the delivery which is often described as "the ball of the century".

Teams: England from: M P Vaughan (capt), M E Trescothick, A J Strauss, I R Bell, K P Pietersen, A Flintoff, G O Jones (wkt), A F Giles, M J Hoggard, S J Harmison, S P Jones, C T Tremlett.

Australia from: R T Ponting (capt), J L Langer, M L Hayden, D R Martyn, M J Clarke, S M Katich, A C Gilchrist (wkt), S K Warne, B Lee, J N Gillespie, M S Kasprowicz, G D McGrath.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Kara Tointon and Jeremy Piven star in Mr Selfridge
tvActress Kara Tointon on what to expect from Series 3
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
Sport
footballBrighton vs Arsenal match report
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
News
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us