Perth: Buoyant England will need to overcome a long hoodoo at the WACA as well as an Australian side scratching for form if they are to retain the Ashes in the third Test of the series starting Thursday.
The tourists hold a 1-0 lead in the five-Test series after a thumping innings victory in Adelaide following a draw in Brisbane, and a win in Perth would guarantee they keep hold of the Ashes they won back in England last year.
But England have a dismal record at a venue once famed for offering unrivalled pace and bounce, with just one victory in 11 attempts, way back in 1978 under skipper Mike Brearley.
Australia have won their past five Ashes clashes in Perth but England coach Andy Flower said the side were not daunted by the weight of history.
“England do have a poor record in Perth,” he said. “One win in 11 and that was back in 1978 in World Series Cricket days.
“We do recognise the challenge in front of us, and I think the guys are excited about attempting to turn it around.”
Although the WACA has not boasted pace and bounce in recent years, curator Cam Sutherland has been talking up the possibility of a lively pitch with a healthy covering of grass.
But Flower embraced the prospect of a more traditional WACA wicket.
“I think it’s really exciting for everyone,” he said. “It makes for exciting cricket and that is why we are here.”
England are expected to promote Chris Tremlett to replace fellow paceman Stuart Broad, who has been ruled out for the rest of the series with an abdominal strain.
Tremlett, who has played three Tests, is expected to be given the nod ahead of Tim Bresnan and Ajmal Shahzad and play his first Test since August 2007.
The towering Tremlett is expected to be suited to the WACA pitch and has been in solid form in the tour games, with seven wickets at 25.43.
Flower said England’s preferred 11 was “pretty clear in our minds” for the third Test, but would not be announced to the squad until on Wednesday.
He added that England’s draw against state side Victoria following the euphoria of the second Test win in Adelaide was a timely “reality check” for his team.
The English are confident lively seamer James Anderson, who has put previous poor form in Australia behind him with eight Test wickets at 32.12, will not be unduly affected by a dash back to England for the birth of his child.
Anderson arrived in Perth on yesterday afternoon.
“It’s not ideal prep for him or for us but we’ll get the right amount of rest and training into him over the next three days and hopefully he’s fine,” Flower said.
“When you’re in competition you can’t always get perfect preparation. There are all sorts of things that can go wrong, illness, injury, sometimes travel disruptions, family issues.
“They are all the sorts of disruptions that can come into a professional sportsman’s preparation that could distract them. However, this is just one of the things he has to deal with.”
Australia will blood debutant spinner Michael Beer, who has played just six first-class matches for 16 wickets. He will become the 10th specialist spinner tried since Shane Warne retired in 2007.
All-rounder Steve Smith is also expected to come into the side, as is swing bowler Ben Hilfenhaus, leaving first Test hat-trick hero Peter Siddle and the embattled Mitch Johnson vying for the final place in the attack, with Ryan Harris sure to be retained.