England on the verge of a 4-0 win
Dead rubber? Well, in the sense that the Ashes series is already over as a contest, obviously the Fifth Test, which gets under way at The Oval tomorrow, means nothing. But just because the precious urn is already safe in Alastair Cook’s hands, doesn’t mean that England and Australia have nothing to play for. This finale could be many things, but one thing it won’t be is dead.
England, evens with Coral to wrap up the series 4-0, have a bucketload of incentives. Such a convincing home Ashes hammering is unprecedented, while a victory in the Capital would also see Andy Flower’s men leapfrog India into second place behind South Africa in the Test world rankings (although a draw would also do that job).
A final marker can be laid down ahead of the return Ashes series next winter and this will also be an opportunity for individual players to shine and cement their places on the tour Down Under.
But above all, the main incentive to beat Australia is because it just feels so good. And the Aussies (5/2) feel the same way about beating us. For that reason alone, this ‘dead rubber’ will be fought over as fiercely as if it were a series decider.
There hasn’t been much between the two sides this summer and a 3-0 scoreline flatters the hosts. The toss has been crucial and Cook has called right three times out of four (the three wins) – it could have been so different if the coin had landed on the other side.
But ultimately England have retained the Ashes because they have won the big sessions, the big moments, thanks mainly to a potent bowling attack, which will be no less effective with the likely introduction at The Oval of Chris Tremlett for the sidelined Tim Bresnan.
Tremlett was one of the stars in the last Test series in Australia, taking 17 wickets in three matches, and the Baggy Greens won’t be relishing facing the 6’7” paceman on his home ground. Coral rate Tremlett an 11/4 chance to be leading England bowler in the first innings and 14/1 to take ten wickets in the match.
Stuart Broad, who so memorably delivered the coup de grace at Chester-le-Street last week, is 10/1 to again be Man of the Match.
Australia are likely to experiment a little, both in this match and in other games ahead of England’s visit. There have been some highlights for them, in particular the skill and endeavour shown by fast bowlers Ryan Harris and Peter Siddle, but they have been let down more often than not by their batting – their Riverside collapse was by no means the first of the series.
England have been too good for them, even without telling contributions from the normally reliable Jonathan Trott and Matt Prior (Cook and Joe Root have a bit hit and miss as well). If the home team’s batsmen click as a unit, then it all looks good for another victory and a 4-0 final scoreline, although confidence won’t be as high if Michael Clarke wins the toss.
And then we start all over again at the Gabba, Brisbane, on November 21st. Coral make England 10/11 to bring back Ashes, 13/8 Australia, 5/1 the tie.
Written by Jon Freeman