1. How psychologically damaging were the Perth batting collapses? It will be a miracle if none of our top six now doubt their ability to perform against Johnson and Harris. Comparisons are being made with the Oval 2009, where we bounced back after the rout at Headingley. But our first innings score in that match was a fairly modest 332 – it was Broad’s devastating bowling spell which actually saved our bacon. Speaking of momentum, it’s interesting that Australia started very badly at Perth, still fazed by the nightmare of Adelaide. We were bossing the match until Johnson – out of nowhere – suddenly got the ball to swing.
2. How do we get Mike Hussey out? Were it not for Mr Bloody Cricket, we would by now be leading 3-0. It’s like bowling at a brick wall. Nothing seems to work – line and length, short balls, spin. Any ideas?
3. Five bowlers? Expect this bone of contention to take centre stage again. Our seamers are beginning to look fatigued, and if Swann can’t find turn, it’s a big ask for three quicks to find twenty wickets. But are we comfortable with Prior moving up to six? His technique is once again under the spotlight. And without Broad, our tail is looking long enough already.
4. Brezzer or Shazzer? He’s a lovely lad, but right now only his mum thinks Steven Finn should be retained for Melbourne. So do we go for the economy and batting of Bresnan, or the nip and reverse swing of Shahzad?
5. Bellingwood Should Bell move above Colly? Gut instinct suggests Strauss will ignore the pundits’ clamour. But there is a precedent – Collingwood gave up his number four slot to KP during the 2006/7 series.
6. Which batsmen are in genuine form? This is very hard to tell. KP was rubbish for two years, sensational at Adelaide, and then rubbish again at Perth. Cook hinted at his bad old ways in both Perth dismissals. Personally, on the basis of his pure resolve, my money is on Strauss for an influential ton at Melbourne.
7. Was Johnson’s performance at the WACA a fluke? Hope so. Doubt he has any more of a clue himself than the rest of us.
8. How much solace can we take from Australia’s batting? Plenty. Only one of their batsmen has posed us a substantial problem, and four of their top six are struggling. Ponting is due runs to the same extent that Hussey is due a failure.
9. Why are we bowling too short? This tendency has plagued England for years, and it’s hard to fathom. Logic suggests that bowlers raised in England should, if anything, bowl too full.
10. What is the ideal scenario for the build-up to Melbourne? Paul McKenna arrives in the England camp to hypnotically erase the last four days’ events from our batsmen’s minds. Mike Hussey sustains a finger-related mishap with the Christmas nutcrackers. Ponting is ruled out of the match by his own fracture, and replaced as captain by the recalled Andrew Symonds. Xavier Doherty is brought back, in place of Ryan Harris.