ENGLAND have already wrapped up the Ashes but where’s the 5th Test value? We asked Josh Healey (@joshhealey04).
England v Australia | Thursday – Monday | Sky Sports
And so we enter the final Test match of this extraordinary Ashes series with England 3-1 up. The hosts aiming to rub salt into Aussie wounds, the tourists desperately hoping to restore some pride and give captain Michael Clarke a worthy send-off.
England will remain unchanged as Jimmy Anderson continues his recovery. For Australia, Pat Cummins will replace Josh Hazlewood who has a slight niggle, whilst Mitchell Marsh could return in place of his older brother, Shaun.
These matches have been nigh impossible to comprehend in their aftermath, never mind predict beforehand. With the final Test a dead-rubber, how can we expect it to pan out? That all comes down to the pitch.
Slow, lifeless decks with an emphasis on nullifying Johnson and co looked to be the theme for the series, until the Lord’s horror show called for a swift reassessment from England.
The quintessentially English pitch which followed at Edgbaston proved it was more advantageous for the hosts to play to their strengths rather than trying to hinder their opponents. Unsurprisingly the Trent Bridge groundsmen followed suit, and guess what? Yep, a gargantuan, record-breaking rout ensued. Just like that, England had regained the Ashes.
Finally then, some overdue relief as the Aussies enter the safe-haven of The Oval – a wonderfully flat pitch representing a glorious opportunity for the batsmen to fill their boots. Or not. The hosts are ruthless; they are hungry for 4-1. As a result, another green seamer is on its way.
Clarke, playing in his last Test match, believes we could have another three-dayer on our hands. Given the incompetence displayed by his fragile side accompanied with the sheer brilliance from Cook’s men, who could argue against him?
Although the price has dropped significantly throughout the series, 8/1 with Paddy Power on the match finishing inside three days looks a worthwhile punt. It has landed in the last two Tests and with another bowler-friendly pitch on the way there’s every chance it could do so here too.
The abundance of rain over the last week or so means the pitch will have been under covers for extended periods; even if the groundsmen wanted to prepare a batting paradise they would have struggled to do so. To accompany that, the forecasts for Thursday and Friday suggest plenty of cloud with a spot of rain. It’s not looking good for the batsmen.
Wickets could tumble early on, and it’s the Australian batsmen that are likely to struggle yet again. They have been utterly hopeless against the moving ball and it’s unlikely that will be rectified by Thursday. The tourists have been keen to get the excuses in early, with the press and players alike lambasting the green Oval pitch, suggesting it provides an unfair contest. Hilarious. Keep it up, chaps.
After crumbling, or rather disintegrating, on-field in the last two Tests, they are now doing so off-field too. Australia are beyond a wounded animal, they are on their last legs helplessly gasping for breath. England could pounce, and 7/5 with Stan James is a healthy price worth taking.
If the tourists had planned and practised as meticulously as their opponents then they would surely have put up a better fight. But irrespective of the poor preparation, the in-game application of this side has been nothing short of woeful. Australia have been humiliated in conditions that have seen them dumbfounded, and I only expect the humiliation to be magnified come the conclusion of this match.
As an aside, I’m also happy to back England’s superstar to lead the run-scoring once again. Surprisingly, Joe Root has only shorted from 3/1 to 11/4 despite another sensational hundred at Trent Bridge. Root has top scored in 3/4 this series as well as in the last two Tests at The Oval, one of which was against Australia in 2013.
Although he’s bound to have a failure or two every so often, Root’s overall form shows no signs of letting up. After this series I expect the bookies to try and put us off backing him; odds of 9/4, perhaps 5/2, will likely become the norm. Let’s take advantage while we still can.
England v Australia – England to win (7/5 Stan James)
England v Australia – Test To End on Day 1, 2 or 3 (8/1 Paddy Power)
England v Australia – Joe Root Top England Batsman (11/4 Ladbrokes)