Monty Panesar fell victim to Shane Warne's bowling, and the bail dislodged from the stumps as the Australian notched his 699th Test wicket, his fourth of the innings and his fifth of the match. 

Two balls into the afternoon session of the third Test and England's hopes of retaining the Ashes had all but melted away in the WACA's scorching heat, stripping the Boxing Day Test at the MCG of any significance. 

England would go on to lose the final two Tests, as Australia completed the first Ashes whitewash since the 1920-21 series, a final, fitting, swansong for the likes of Warne, Justin Langer, Glenn McGrath and Damien Martyn. 

Almost seven years later, it could again be all over too soon. England and Australia arrive at Old Trafford in contrasting states of mind.

The hosts are buoyed by a superb win at Lord's, while the visitors' shambolic performances on the pitch have been mirrored by an erratic conduct off it, that reached its climax when former coach Mickey Arthur was unceremoniously relieved of his duties less than two weeks before the first ball was bowled at Trent Bridge. 

Australians, the old sport cliche goes, are at their most dangerous when their backs are up against the wall and England should underestimate Michael Clarke's men at their peril.

But based on the first two Tests, it will take a gargantuan effort for the Aussies to emerge from the black hole in which they've fallen. 

They have, of course, the talent to do so, but their inability to score runs in the first two Tests promises to cast huge doubts over Australia's chances to rescue the series by winning at Old Trafford.

Having been earmarked as the villain in the Aussie camp after his attack on Joe Root in a Birmingham pub, David Warner has now emerged as the man Darren Lehmann could turn to ahead of what the Australian coach has described as a "do or die" match in Manchester.

Warner, to his credit, has made the most of the forced exile with Australia A, piling up 193 runs in South Africa, but doubts persist over whether his selection would be too much of a gamble, while choosing who would make way for Warner promises to be a real head-scratcher for Lehmann.

Shane Watson, for all his unquestionable talent, remains one of the most frustrating batsmen in world cricket. 

The Queenslander has looked in command for the opening half an hour of his innings, but has scored only 109 runs in the series so far, during which he has developed the rather annoying habit of getting himself out lbw after exposing his left leg to seamers. 

His opening partner Chris Rodgers has looked more comfortable at the crease than the man with whom he shares a comically poor understanding of the DRS system, but he has failed to produce scores of any significance. 

Likewise, Usman Khawaja has shown promising signs, but flickers of hope have never won an Ashes series, and neither has the sort of erratic batting Phil Hughes has displayed in the first two Tests. Having hit 81 in his first knock at Trent Bridge, Hughes added only two runs in his next three innings, before notching 38 and 84 against Sussex.

Warner might be an unpopular choice as well as a risky one, but Lehmann knows he can't afford to leave stones unturned ahead of the Old Trafford showdown or Australia could well be on the receiving end of a whitewash by the time the series draws to a close.

A 3-0 lead would strip the last two Tests of some their significance, but England fans and players won't care one bit. After all, they know how they felt like in that scorching December afternoon seven and a half years ago.

 

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Topics:
Cricket
The Ashes