Ian Bell and Joe Root are the contenders to bat at No. 3 in the second Ashes Test, with England batting coach Graham Gooch saying nobody would be shielded after Jonathan Trott's sudden departure due to a stress-related illness.
"I'm not a believer in you've got to be very careful about looking after people in what number they bat," Gooch told a news conference Monday. "If you're asked to bat three, four, five or six, you have to do that job. I'm sure both of them will want that challenge if they're asked."
England was dismissed for 136 and 179 in a humbling 381-run loss in the first Test, where Australian paceman Mitchell Johnson used the extra bounce at the Gabba to unsettle the touring batsmen with some fiery short-pitched bowling.
Root defied the Australian attack in the second innings, finishing unbeaten on 26 in an England stand that included breaks for hail and rain and some thunderbolts of bouncers from Johnson. (Bring it on, Root tells Johnson)
Trott, who had two batting failures in Brisbane, quit the tour to return to England in the immediate aftermath of the first Test, leaving England 10 days to determine who would move up the order to fill the crucial No. 3 position.
Moving Root, who has played as an opener and most of the top-order positions in his brief, 12-Test career, would be the least disruptive option because Bell is a proven scorer at No. 5.
"Whoever moves up to No. 3, and it's probably fair to say Joe Root and Ian Bell are the two candidates, I'm sure they'll stand up for England," Gooch said. "That's what they've got to do." (Sledging a compliment: Gooch)
The 31-year-old Bell has batted at No. 5 in 62 of his 94 tests and scored 16 of his 20 test centuries from that position. He has scored two centuries batting at No. 3 in 21 tests. His only tests against Australia batting at No. 3 where on the 2006-07 tour when England was swept 5-0. (Bell wants to bat at No. 3)
Australian fast bowler Ryan Harris said he'd prefer to see Bell coming in at the fall of the first wicket, "just because we get an earlier chance to get him out."
"He did very well in that last series and he came in at times when they were under the pump and made big scores," Harris said. Batting at No. 3 "obviously gives him more time to get in, but it also gives us more time to have a crack at him."
Root, who spent five months playing in Adelaide grade cricket in the 2010-11 season while attending the academy named after current Australia coach Darren Lehmann, says he's ready for the challenge.
He made his test debut in India last December and has shown versatility by batting up and down the order. He has scored two centuries - including a test high 180 against Australia at Lord's in July when he opened with captain Alastair Cook - and has 791 runs at an average of almost 40.
"There have been different obstacles to overcome and I just want to improve as a player," the 22-year-old Root said. "This match is massive, and it's a great opportunity to go out there and make a statement as a team and put a big score on the board.
"We can't think about last week; we have to think about this week - put ourselves in the front seat on that first day in Adelaide."
Much was made of the heated exchanges in Brisbane, were players traded angry insults and Australia captain Michael Clarke was fined after using an expletive at England tailender Jimmy Anderson that was picked up by a stump microphone used for the TV broadcast.
Root, who was targeted in an off-field episode by David Warner that resulted in the Australian opener being suspended and missing the first two tests of the last Ashes series, said the tension on the field was all part of the Ashes.
"I enjoy being out there, and the battles you get are all part of the game," he said. "I'm sure it will continue the whole series.
"I don't think there's much point talking about it. If we perform well that's best way of counteracting it."
The Australians will continue to taunt the England players, but Harris said Trott's illness would be off limits.
"Jonathan has gone now and I'd be disappointed if anyone brings that up, it's not a nice thing that he's going through," Harris said.
"We want Jonathan Trott back playing cricket. The whole world does, the Australian team does because ... we want to play against their best team."