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Injuries add intrigue to Ashes finale

England and Australia are facing key selection decisions ahead of the Oval Test on Thursday.

india Updated: Sep 07, 2005 18:23 IST

England and Australia are facing key selection decisions ahead of the fifth and final Ashes Test starting at The Oval on Thursdaywith injuries to key bowlers casting a cloud over both sides' preparations.

England arrive at The Oval 2-1 up and needing only to avoid defeat to win their first Ashes series since 1986-87.

But having been on the brink of fielding an unchanged team in a five-match Ashes series for the first time since 1884-85, England lost Simon Joneson Wednesdayto the ankle injury that sidelined the Glamorgan quick from the second half of their three-wicket fourth Test win at Trent Bridge.

The 26-year-old reverse swing specialist had troubled Australia throughout the series with his movement, taking 18 wickets at 21 runs apiece.

Now, to fill Jones's shoes England must decide between batting all-rounder Paul Collingwood, who has scored six first-class hundreds this season, and paceman James Anderson who played the last of his 12 Tests in the northern winter in South Africa.

With England needing just a draw -- a result that might yet lead to a victory parade through London's Trafalgar Square -- there is a temptation to select Collingwood given Australia must take 20 wickets to square the series and so retain the Ashes.

And Australia captain Ricky Ponting told reporters at The Ovalon wednesday: "Jones has been a good bowler for them."

But England captain Michael Vaughan insisted picking either Collingwood or Anderson could be seen as a positive move.

"It can be attacking (playing five specialist bowlers) but it can also be attacking by playing an extra batter and getting a few more runs on the board."

"Considering we'll have seven weeks' rest afterwards I don't think the workload is much of an issue at this stage," said Vaughan.

And with England not possessing many players temperamentally inclined to play for the draw, Vaughan stressed: "We have played positive cricket and we have played to win. Can we do it for the fourth consecutive game, that will be the big question."

Australia meanwhile are hoping fast bowler Glenn McGrath overcomes a right elbow problem for what is set to be his final Test in England.

Injuries meant the 35-year-old missed both of England's victories so far this series, the elbow sidelining him at Nottingham and an ankle injury, sustained when he trod on a ball before play, keeping him out of England's two-run second Test win at Edgbaston.

In his absence and even when he returned for the drawn third Test, England's batsmen have set the tone for much of the series with commanding first innings totals against the Australia attack after McGrath took nine for 82 in the first Test at Lord's.

First Published: Sep 07, 2005 15:50 IST