NOTTINGHAM - England head into the fourth Test against Australia at Trent Bridge starting on Thursday knowing they are just one win away from recapturing the Ashes yet being equally aware they've yet to string back-to-back victories together in Tests in 2015. Since drawing their series opener against the West Indies at Antigua in April, England's next seven Tests have seen them alternate between winning and losing.

Indeed their eight-wicket win in the third Test at Edgbaston, which put England 2-1 up in the five-match Ashes series followed a defeat by the huge margin of 405 runs in the second Test at Lord's. England will also be without all-time leading wicket-taker James Anderson, who took an Ashes-best six for 47 at Edgbaston but was subsequently ruled out of the fourth Test with a side strain.

It is the first time Anderson has missed a Test in three years and means he won't be able to add to his exceptional record at Nottinghamshire's headquarters which has seen him take 53 wickets in eight Tests, including 10 during England's thrilling 14-run win in the corresponding Ashes clash in Nottingham in 2013.

England would like to recall Durham quick Mark Wood, whose absence through injury paved the way for Middlesex fast bowler Steven Finn to take a Test-best six for 79 on his return to the side at Edgbaston. However, they will have to decide if he Wood is over the ankle trouble that forced him out at Edgbaston, with Liam Plunkett and uncapped Derbyshire left-armer Mark Footitt standing by.

Australia left-arm quick Mitchell Johnson insisted Anderson's absence would leave a huge hole in England's attack. "It's a massive loss for them," he said. "Whoever they bring in will have big pressure on them."

Meanwhile England opener Adam Lyth is set to keep his place despite managing 72 runs in six innings at an average of 12 so far this series. Stuart Broad, set to lead England's attack in the absence of longtime new-ball partner Anderson, is just one wicket away from joining Test cricket's '300 club' on his Nottinghamshire home ground

Australia captain Michael Clarke and England counterpart Alastair Cook have played more than 200 Tests between them but both are perplexed by the to-and-fro nature of this season's Ashes series.

"I can't explain that -- it's a rollercoaster ride," Clarke told reporters on Wednesday. "We played some not so great cricket at Cardiff and Edgbaston and then, at Lord's, we were outstanding. We have seen that from both teams. I don't know the reason."

Cook perhaps got closest to an explanation by observing how a team that had taken an early advantage in a match had retained a strong position until the end of the game. "When both sides got on top, they've been pretty ruthless at staying on top and not allowing the other side to come back," Cook said. Cook, whose side will look to break a seven-Test streak of alternating wins and losses by recording their first back-to-back victories of 2015, added: "I've seen a shift from one side to the other side taking the lead, but I haven't seen it shift back and forward in three games like this. Hopefully, that can stop."

No side since Australia were inspired by batting great Don Bradman back in 1936/37 have come from 2-1 down to win the Ashes, with Bradman's side 2-0 down at one stage. But Clarke said his team could record a landmark achievement of their own this Ashes. "We showed that at Lord's," he said. "We can take confidence that we bounced back after Cardiff... we've got to have the same attitude now."

Meanwhile Nottinghamshire groundsman Steve Birks is under pressure too after last year's Test pitch at Trent Bridge was officially classed as "poor" after a run-glut draw between England and India proved heart-breaking for any bowler above medium-pace.

England (probable): Alastair Cook (capt), Adam Lyth, Ian Bell, Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow, Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler (wkt), Moeen Ali, Stuart Broad, Mark Wood, Steven Finn

Australia (probable): David Warner, Chris Rogers, Steven Smith, Michael Clarke (capt), Shaun Marsh, Mitchell Marsh, Peter Nevill (wkt), Mitchell Johnson, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Nathan Lyon.