Thursday 12 September at The Oval, London: 11am start
Live on Sky Sports
The joy of that England win at Headingley in the third Ashes test didn’t last that long. Just a week later, Australia won at Old Trafford to go 2-1 up in the series and retain the Ashes. England have been outplayed by the Australians for most of this series. England now go into the final test hoping to get a win and at least draw the series.
England’s hopes of regaining the Ashes were improved when they beat Australia at Headingley. It didnt seem to matter that they had been outplayed for most of that game, even with Steve Smith absent. Nor did it matter that if Australia had still got a review left, they would have won the match. England fans made their way to Old Trafford in silly fancy dress with beach balls and numerous other inflatables in hand, dreaming of another win.
Strangely in my childhood, I didn’t ask my father when going to a test match, if we could dress up as Captain America and take a beach ball to play with. Cricket has moved on in recent years but Steve Smith remains a class act (but we know the rest of the story). He returned to Australia’s team and promptly hit a double century in the first innings. He’s 5/4 (2.25) at Ladbrokes to be the top Australian run scorer in the first innings.
His double century helped give Australia a big first innings total of 497/8 declared. From that point onwards, England were hoping to get a draw to keep their Ashes hopes alive. There was that brief moment when Australia were 44-4 but another 81 from Smith put those hopes to bed.
England fought hard on the final day to save the test but still ended up losing by 185 runs and the Ashes were retained by the Australians. The odds on them winning at The Oval are 21/20 (2.05) at Bet365.
A look at the averages for this series doesn’t make pleasant reading for England fans. Take the top two runscorers (Stokes and Burns) and they still have only six runs more than Smith and from 11 innings more than the Aussie batsman.
There have been few success stories for England. Rory Burns has established himself as an opening batsman. However, take away his highest score and the other seven innings total 21 less than Smith scored in the first innings at Old Trafford. Burns is 7/1 (8.0) at Ladbrokes to score a century in this match.
England continue to lack consistency with the bat but so do Australia. Smith aside, only Marcus Labuschagne can say he’s had a good series with four fifties in five innings. He’s 6/1 (7.0) at Coral to score a century in the first innings of this test.
The Ashes may be lost but this series is part of the inaugural World Test Championship. We’d explain all the rules but it’s Christmas soon and there’s shopping to do. Suffice to say, the top two get in the final and England are currently fifth, so a win in the final test would be handy. The odds on that happening are 6/4 (2.5) at William Hill.
With the Ashes lost, there were some calls for England to make changes for this final test. Common sense has prevailed and Jason Roy won’t be playing in the fifth test. Craig Overton has been dropped after one game and in come Chris Woakes and Sam Curran. Ben Stokes plays as a batsman only due to his shoulder injury. Australia may recall James Pattinson with Mitchell Starc the one he’d likely replace.
England have won three of the last six test matches played against Australia at The Oval. Australia have won two, including the last in 2015 by an innings and 46 runs. Only one has been drawn, it’s 5/1 (6.0) at Betfred that this game ends in a stalemate.
England would love to at least level the series but face a tough task. There is still little confidence in their batting line-up to build winning totals. It’s been a bowlers series with only five batsman averaging over 30. The mere fact that three Australian openers have scored 169 runs in 16 innings (highest scores account for 96 of those runs) shows that few batsman have prospered. That’s why each test has produced a positive result despite the amount of time lost to the weather. A Draw No Bet on Australia is 8/11 (1.72) at BetVictor.