The third Ashes Test of the summer is set to be a defining one for the legacies of the opposing captains, Michael Clarke and Alastair Cook.
The beginning of the previous series saw ludicrous predictions by some (mainly English) pundits predicting a 10-0 win. It is obvious now that it will take an abrupt form reversal from both sides in order for Australia not to regain the Ashes.
An interesting side note of this battle is how it will define the careers of two of the best players of this generation in Clarke and Cook.
Both are tremendous players, but at this stage their captaincy ability hasn’t lived up to their playing ability.
Sure, both have won Test series before, but it is certain to be this one in which their legacies are measured.
This is the biggest test of Cook’s tenure no doubt. Being 2-0 down in an Ashes series is the biggest challenge imaginable in Test cricket, and not one he would have thought to be possible prior to the series.
What England need to do now is fight. They need to go in with a four- or five-pronged pace attack and fight fire with fire.
Cook will have to be at the heart of this willing his team on at every opportunity. This is his time to stamp his mark on this English side.
Since Cook took over the captaincy from Andrew Strauss the core of the team has stayed together, with the success that Strauss helped create being inherited by Cook.
The best way he can inspire his troops is win the toss and bat first. This will show his team that his is prepared to fight.
From there, the reality is he needs to score a century – and preferably a big one.
England must make 450-plus and really put the onus on the Australians, something that hasn’t happened on this tour to date.
An attack consisting of James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Tim Bresnan and Boyd Rankin need to bend their backs and bowl their hearts out. This needs to be backed up by attacking and inventive field placings by captain Cook.
All the English players need to be at their best, but it all starts with Cook.
On the Australian side of things Michael Clarke knows that if the Aussies win in Perth then it will be his greatest achievement in cricket. How he goes about this will be interesting.
Sure, they are going to intimidate the English led by the fiery Mitchell Johnson. But if England start to play to their potential and apply pressure, something that hasn’t occurred so far this summer, it will be how Clarke reacts that could ensure the reclaiming of the Ashes.
If Johnson has a bad spell – which history shows he’s inclined to have – then does Clarke show faith and chuck him the ball for a second?
If Ryan Harris pulls up with an injury – which history also shows he’s inclined to do – then Clarke rotating his bowlers to ensure they remain relatively fresh will be vital.
These are just hypothetical questions of course but it will be how Michael Clarke handles these variables in Perth that may be the difference between reclaiming the Ashes or not.
Although the pressure appears to firmly be on the shoulders of Alastair Cook and England, there is no doubt still a lot of public expectation and pressure on Michael Clarke and Australia.
How both players handle this pressure in Perth may decide the series and, along with it, their legacies as captains.