The Ashes series – Test cricket’s ultimate showdown – heads into the fifth and final Test at the Oval, with Australia looking to put the cherry on top of retaining the urn.
History: Played 350: Australia 146 V England 109 (95 Draws)
Last meeting: August 4-8: Australia d England by 185 runs at Old Trafford
Final Thoughts: The Ashes are safely in Australia’s keeping after an emphatic win in Manchester. But the tourists will be hell-bent on rubbing England’s face in the dirt and sealing a 3-1 series victory back in London.
Steve Smith – who missed the epic one-wicket loss in the third Test over concussion concerns – made a scintillating return at Old Trafford. The former skipper scored 211 and 82 as the Aussies posted 8/497 dec and 6/186 dec.
England made a respectable 301, underpinned by Rory Burns (81) and Joe Root (71), in their first dig to avoid the follow-on. But they crumbled for 197 in the second innings, only Joe Denly (53) offering up significant resistance.
Australia’s pace trio of Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc were outstanding. On the other side of the fence, Jofra Archer did not have the expected impact.
Marnus Labuschagne’s first-innings 67 was the next-highest score by an Australian, continuing his outstanding form since coming into the line-up. The big disappointment was David Warner, who earned the first pair of his Test career. Fellow opener Marcus Harris (13 and 6) also struggled.
Studs and duds
Warner has scored a miserable 79 runs at 9.87. In contrast, Smith has amassed a Bradman-esque 671 runs at 134.20. He has scored three of the seven centuries in the series.
England’s top order has been very disappointing. Aside from all-rounder Ben Stokes’ two marvellous tons, Burns is the only other player from the home side to rack up a century. Captain Joe Root has scraped together three fifties in the series, but his three ducks in the last three Tests have hindered England big-time.
The Oval has been one of Australia’s more fruitful Ashes venues over the past 20 years. In the last five at the London venue, they have won two (both by an innings) and drawn two.
Ominously, Smith’s 143 led the tourists to victory by an innings and 46 runs at The Oval in 2015.
Searching for their first series win in England since 2001, don’t expect Australia to take their foot off the gas.