England captain Alastair Cook has called on his players to etch their name in Ashes history by doing their bit to reclaim the urn at Trent Bridge.
England, pummelled 5-0 Down Under in 2013-14, will take the field today 2-1 ahead and knowing that one more victory will take them over the line with a game to spare.
That is far from a given, with England having followed their three Test wins before the Edgbaston victory with dispiriting defeats – against the West Indies, New Zealand and the old enemy at Lord’s last month.
With Australia’s only victory this summer coming by a crushing 405-run margin, Cook can hardly rely on the form book to see England right and is, instead, banking on one or more of his charges conjuring a decisive performance. In 2005 it was Kevin Pietersen’s maiden hundred at The Oval, four years later Jonathan Trott hit a decisive century on debut and in 2013 Stuart Broad took 11 wickets in Durham to seal the deal.
Cook took the headlines when England triumphed in 2010-11, hitting 189 in the final Test at the SCG and he is looking for another headline showing this week.
“The series is poised at 2-1, there’s an opportunity for someone to really make a name for themselves in the history of English cricket,” said Cook.
“If someone scores a really big hundred or takes six or seven wickets to help England win the game their name will be etched in history forever.
“That’s the opportunity we have as a side.”
On current form, the odds on that man being Adam Lyth would surely be on the long side.
The Yorkshire opener is averaging just 12 from his six Ashes innings and may well have lost his place had there been a compelling candidate in form.
But Cook, who has witnessed his struggles from the non-striker’s end, believes Lyth could take his chance.
“He hasn’t scored the runs he’d like to have scored, he knows that, but in the last game I thought he looked a lot more solid,“ said the skipper.
“He looked like his method was sorted out, though he didn’t quite get the runs. I do believe a big score is round the corner for him.
“This time last year he was flying as a player and everyone was talking about him as England opener. Now he has got his chance and he has to try and ignore the external stuff and concentrate on what got him here in the first place.”
Durham seamer Mark Wood is another vying for the role of unexpected match-winner.
He was rested at Edgbaston due to concerns over his injured left ankle and would almost certainly have sat out again given the man-of-the-match performance of his replacement, Steven Finn.
But a side strain to James Anderson brings Wood back into the fold for the biggest match of his career. Yorkshire’s Liam Plunkett and the uncapped Mark Footitt are also in the squad as cover, but Cook betrayed a clear preference for Wood, providing there are no late fitness scares.
“It looks really good for Woody. He seems to have come through training pretty well,” said Cook.
“I think it’s fair to say (he is first choice). I thought he bowled really well at Cardiff and didn’t quite get it right at Lord’s, but he’s looked fit and ready.
“Everything he’s been asked to do he’s come through with flying colours. He’s really excited for the opportunity he’s got.
“He’ll have a last check in the morning but, yes, we’ve got everyone to select from.”
On the eve of the series the England captain suggested that bringing the Ashes back home after the nadir of the previous battle would represent a career high achievement.
In the next five days that high watermark could be in the bank –sooner if the fast-paced nature of the last three games continues –but Cook will attempt to maintain a slightly narrower when hostilities resume at 11am.
“No-one gave us a chance at the beginning of the series, everyone was writing us off,” he recalled.
“Now we’re 2-1 up, which sounds a great position to be in –and it is because it’s better than being 2-1 down – but there’s a lot of cricket to play.”