Strauss rules out wholesale changes for final Test

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The Independent Online

Andrew Strauss has called for calm in the wake of England's defeat which leaves them needing to beat Australia at The Oval to regain the Ashes. But he accepts that the failings of his middle order cannot be repeated.

Ravi Bopara, Ian Bell and Paul Collingwood scored just 16 runs between them during the fourth Test and there are calls for Mark Ramprakash and Robert Key to be called up.

"All I would say is that it's time for calm reflection," said Strauss when Ramprakash's name was put to him last night. "Whatever decision we come to, hopefully we've thought it through carefully and picked the right 11 to win the Test." England's first task will be to establish as soon as possible whether Andrew Flintoff is likely to be fit for Thursday week's decider in south London after the all-rounder missed Headingley because of a chronic knee injury. He is due to see a specialist today, and there is also a doubt over James Anderson's availability after he damaged a hamstring.

But it is England's batting that should cause the most concern. "If you are thinking about wholesale changes I would be very resistant to that," said Strauss. "But at the same time we have to make a judgement call about the best 11 players to win the last match.

"We need to look back at what's happened over the last game, and over the last four games, and then come together with the selectors before deciding what route we want to go down for the final Test. If you look at our batting performances over the past nine Tests or so they've been pretty good. But you don't want to be in a situation where you ever get bowled our for 51 [Jamaica, in February] or 102 [last Friday]. That is an issue.

"I don't think we reacted quickly enough to the conditions or the way the Australians bowled. As a batting unit we need to take that on the chin and ask ourselves, were we were switched on properly?"

Ricky Ponting is clearly enjoying media coverage of the series a lot more now than he was after Australia defeat at Lord's. Yesterday, there were not only details of a dossier on England's players put together by the captain's former team-mate Justin Langer (it claimed, among other things, that Anderson could be a "pussy") but also calls for Ramprakash's recall just before his 40th birthday. "The newspapers are talking about Ramprakash coming back in so that's obviously all started, which for us is terrific," Ponting said. "It will be difficult for them to bounce back now."

Strauss dismissed Langer's dossier as being of no interest to him. "When you cross that white line anything that's written on paper is irrelevant," he said. "It's 1-1 and the winner takes all at The Oval. You need 11 guys to stand up and want it enough, be desperate enough to win it."

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