1. ITV Report

Third Test preview: Can England retain the Ashes?

The third Ashes Test begins today at Old Trafford in Manchester, and if England win, they will retain the Ashes.

In fact, England only need to draw this Test to keep the Urn, due to their status as current holder.

So the pressure is firmly on Australia, who need to win all three remaining test matches to take the series. And having been humbled in the first two matches comfortably by England, that outcome looks unlikely.

Old Trafford has previously been an even playing ground for both sides however, as England and Australia have each won seven Tests at the ground in head-to-heads, with 14 draws.

Shane Warne celebrates his 'ball of the century' wicket Credit: Rui Vieira/EMPICS Sport

One of the most memorable moments in Old Trafford Ashes Tests was in 1993, when Australian spinner, Shane Warne, bowled England batsman Mike Gatting.

It was his first ever ball in an Ashes Test, and has been labelled ‘the ball of the century’, setting the scene for the years of torment provided by Warne on English batsmen.

The last contest between the two nations at Old Trafford saw a tense draw in 2005, with Australia’s final pair batting out for a draw in front of a packed crowd. That left the series poised at 1-1 with two matches to play. England would go on to win the Ashes 2-1.

There were two Midlanders in the England line up in that previous Test in Manchester, with former Warwickshire spinner Ashley Giles, and current player, Ian Bell, representing the county.

Ian Bell has scored centuries in his last three Ashes Tests Credit: EMPICS Sport/EMPICS Sport

Ian Bell is again representing Warwickshire, and is arguably England’s most in-form batsman, with three centuries in his last three Ashes Tests.

He is joined by county teammate Jonathan Trott, who has at times looked fantastic during this series, but has not gone on to make a big score.

Australia will have to do well to remove Warwickshire’s representatives in England’s batting line up, and if the pair continue to dominate with the bat, England stand a very good chance of sealing victory.

Graeme Swann celebrates his five-wicket haul in the second Test at Lord's Credit: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire/Press Association Images

But England have relied on their bowlers rather more than they would have hoped, so far in this Ashes series. And central to that have been Nottinghamshire duo Graeme Swann and Stuart Broad.

Swann has taken important wickets in the last two matches, and will look to do that again, despite a less spinner-friendly pitch than at Trent Bridge and Lord’s.

And Broad is still recovering from an injury, so has not performed to his usual high standards. If he can improve in this match, the omens are looking bleak for Australia.

Old Trafford is primed for another fascinating Ashes Test match, and if the Midlands men can continue to contribute as they have so far, an unassailable 3-0 series lead for England is surely only five days away.