LONDON: England may have already regained the Ashes but captain Alastair Cook is determined not to let-up when they face Australia in the fifth and final Test at The Oval on Thursday — a match that marks rival skipper Michael Clarke’s farewell to international cricket.
Cook’s men triumphed by an innings and 78 runs in the fourth Test at Trent Bridge to take an unbeatable 3-1 lead in the series after Australia, with England paceman Stuart Broad taking a stunning eight for 15, were dismissed for just 60 in 111 balls on the opening morning — the shortest completed first innings of any Test.
No England side has ever won four Tests in a home Ashes series. But they are now within sight of their biggest margin of victory since Mike Brearley led England to a 5-1 success ‘Down Under’ against an Australia side weakened by defections to the ‘rebel’ World Series Cricket in 1978/79.
Taking this series 4-1 would certainly go some way to avenging the memory of the 5-0 whitewash inflicted upon England in Australia some 18 months ago.
“Cooky called us all on Tuesday, to say: ‘Let’s make sure we turn up knowing that we’re in a battle and that we want to start again, Because I’ve got a burning desire for this to be 4-1’,” Broad said.
“Certainly those of us involved in that 5-0 loss (in 2013-14) feel that determination to make this a good week,” he added.
England have two major selection decisions this week — whether to recall James Anderson, their all-time leading wicket-taker, who missed the fourth Test because of a side injury and whether they should give a Test debut to leg-spinner Adil Rashid.
Given how well England’s pacemen, led by Broad, performed in Anderson’s absence, there seems little point in rushing their spearhead back ahead of tours to the United Arab Emirates and South Africa.
Trevor Bayliss, England’s Australian coach, has spoken all series of how he is prepared to play two spinners and Rashid would certainly come into consideration against Pakistan in the UAE, where the pitches assist slow bowlers.
There has been talk of how England could promote off-spinning all-rounder Moeen Ali to open in place of the struggling Adam Lyth to make space to play Rashid as well.
But the memory of how England gave a debut to left-arm spinner Simon Kerrigan in the corresponding Ashes Test at The Oval two years only for the Lancashire bowler — who hasn’t played senior international cricket since — to be smashed for 53 in the eight overs he bowled is sufficiently fresh in the memory to make it likely that Cook will lead an unchanged team.
– ‘Outplayed’ –
Australia’s top-order had another miserable week as their side were nearly made to follow-on by an under-strength Northamptonshire, one of England’s weaker counties, last weekend.
Clarke, one of Australia’s greatest batsmen will be desperate to finish with a flourish as indeed will opener Chris Rogers, who is also retiring from international cricket after the fifth Test.
“I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a lot of disappointment amongst the group,” said Rogers, with Australia now having lost four successive Ashes series in England.
“We came here to win and we’ve been outplayed. It’s been a difficult week. A lot of guys have felt a bit flat, I imagine.”
“This is a big last game. Obviously it’s Michael’s retirement as well, but not only that, there’s places up for grabs in this side. No one’s taking that for granted,” Rogers added.
All-rounder Mitchell Marsh is set to replace older brother Shaun as the siblings continue to play pass the parcel with a Test place, while paceman Pat Cummins, restricted to a lone Test against South Africa in November 2011 because of fitness problems, could come in for Josh Hazlewood, struggling with shin soreness.
“I’ve been bowling for two years straight,” said Cummins. “I can’t be any more ready if I get the call-up,” added the fast bowler.
Don’t tell him this is a ‘dead’ match. – AFP