1st Test August 1st to 5th Edgbaston
- Australia won by 251 runs
2nd Test August 14th to 18th Lord’s
- Match drawn
3rd Test August 22nd to 26th Headingley
- England won by 1 wicket
4th Test September 4th to 8th Old Trafford
- Australia won by 185 runs
5th Test September 12th to 16th The Oval
Australia won at Old Trafford as England fell short in a gutsy rearguard display. While we may not have had the drama of Headingley, Craig Overton and Jack Leach batted for 14 overs to give England supporters hope they could escape with a draw. But it wasn’t not to be as Australia retained the Ashes on English soil for the first time since 2001, after digging deep in the final hour to achieve what had eluded them two weeks ago. England bowled out on the final day, with Josh Hazlewood trapping Overton LBW to secure the victory. However, despite the host’s fight, there is no doubt Australia were the better side during this test, and over the series. The major difference being Smith, who has scored an incredible 671 runs, in three tests at an average of 134.20. It is no coincident the one England victory occurred during his concussion absence.
Surprisingly England have named the same thirteen-man squad for the final test of the summer. Despite their misfiring batting it is highly likely England will have kept the same top seven all series, all be it with slight order changes between Jason Roy and Joe Denly. Except for Ben Stokes, who scored hundreds at Lord’s and Headingley, and Rory Burns, who has cemented his place at the top of the order, the remainder of England’s batting line up have underperformed. The captain, Joe Root, has three fifties, but a series average of 30.87 is well below par. Denly and Jonny Baistow average under 30, while Jos Buttler and Roy are below 20. The Oval test offer a last chance to secure winter tour spots and salvage test careers.
Australia may keep the same, victorious XI, although there will be a temptation to again refresh the bowling. Both Peter Siddle and James Pattinson are rested and ready.
Possible 5th Test Line-ups:
England: Rory Burns, Joe Denly, Joe Root*, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes, Jonny Bairstow+, Jos Buttler, Sam Curran, Jofra Archer, Stuart Broad, Jack Leach
Australia: David Warner, Marcus Harris, Marnus Labuschagne, Steven Smith, Travis Head, Mathew Wade, Tim Paine*+, Pat Cummins, James Pattinson, Josh Hazlewood, Nathan Lyon
As discussed prior to the 4th Test, both sets of openers continue to struggle, and the suggested bet of below 26.5 for Fall of 1st match wicket was a winner. David Warner’s pair meant Australia’s 1st Innings opening partnerships for the series now read 2, 11, 12 and 1. Denly was out cheaply for England when they first batted, leaving a series record of 22, 0, 10 and 10. Betfred offer Under 23.5 for both teams Fall of 1st Wicket at 5/6, and given neither side has yet passed this line there is no reason the ‘unders train’ should not continue. The new ball has swung and seamed for all the fast bowlers, and only Burns has shown any form out of the openers with 323 runs in the series at 40.37.
With the weather looking settled in London a draw is unlikely and expect attacking cricket as England try and force a win to tie the series. We can expect a few more runs in this match, with The Oval traditionally being one of the better batting pitches in the country. The ground averages 1104 runs per test over the last decade, more than any other venue used during the Ashes.
The key to a victory, and extra points in the World Test Championship, will be the wicket of Smith. How do you get him out? I am not sure the England camp have the answer. He is now best priced at 5/4 with Ladbrokes to top score for Australia. That is the shortest top batsmen price for a test match I have ever seen, highlighting his dominance. His match runs are 98-106 with Sporting Index for those that bet on the spreads. Given what we have seen in the series so far, the 21/20 with Bet 365 on another Australia win would seem the way to go.