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England can go to the Oval to enjoy their cricket having already regained the Ashes with an unassailable 3-1 series lead. It’s been a whirlwind test for England’s new-look side, and confidence is shy-high with a new style of aggressive cricket garnering some inspired results.
Michael Clarke has announced his intention to retire from the great game after the fifth test, bringing to a close an illustrious career and an era of Australian dominance. That adds a certain spice and sentimentality to the final encounter at the Oval, and while the Aussies will be desperate to give him a good send off, there will be no favours from the English players. The 5-0 whitewash in the last Ashes series in Australia is still fresh in the memory, and while England can’t match those heroics, a 4-1 scoreline will be a mark of the way they have controlled this series.
The Story so Far…
England’s heroic return to form all started back at the start of July, when they won the first test in Cardiff by 169 runs. They were not fancied at the time, and we advised backing them at a cracking 3/1 4.00 +300 3.00 3.00 -0.33 for that win. Joe Root was the star, racking up a first innings 134 after England’s top order had threatened to crumble.
Australia bounced back in predictable fashion in the second test at Lord’s winning by 405 runs, with Steven Smith notching a double-century, and the pitch being heavily criticized in the media for blunting the English bowling attack. There were no such problems in the third test at Edgbaston, where England’s bowlers ripped Australia apart and bowled them out for 136 in the first innings. They went on to win the match comfortably by 8 wickets.
The fourth test at Trent Bridge took on added significance as it gave England the opportunity to win the Ashes with a test to spare, and they took that chance gladly with both hands. England won the toss and elected to field, and an extraordinary innings saw Australia bowled out for a meager 60. Stuart Broad took an incredible 8/15 – the best bowling figures by a fast bowler in any Ashes test – and Australia were shell-shocked. England never looked back, declaring on a first innings score of 391, then bowling the Aussies out for 253 to take the test by an innings and 78 runs.
It was an emphatic and glorious win for the England cricketers who had been so maligned for much of 2015, and there were scenes of triumph when seam bowler, Mark Wood, took the winning wicket. When discussing that jubilant moment, Wood also confirmed that he is ‘desperate’ to win the Ashes 4-1, and England must avoid a celebratory hangover.
Fifth Test Match Odds
Draw – 7/2 4.50 +350 3.50 3.50 -0.29 with Paddy Power
England all-rounder Ben Stokes has stoked the fires ahead of the fifth test, saying England are preparing to ‘make history‘ at the Oval. England have never won four tests in a series at home to Australia, and Stokes said the side want to “put another nail into Australia’s coffin” by becoming the first England Ashes side to achieve the feat. England are worth backing to do just that, and take the final test against a lackluster Aussie side to cap a triumphant summer.
The good news for England is that they still have lots of work to do and lots of improvement to come. New coach Trevor Bayliss has been around the block a few times, and despite a wonderful start with the Ashes in the bag since his appointment, he will know the fickle nature of English cricket. Disaster is never far around the corner, and it can be argued that Australia have played as badly as England have played well. Bayliss will be stressing the importance of consistency and maintaining standards during the fifth test, and he won’t allow any England players to rest on their laurels.
For the Aussies the big news is that Michael Clarke has announced that he will retire from international cricket at the end of the series. He has said that the time is right, and he hasn’t felt his performances have been at the level they should be. It’s true that he’s averaged just 16 across eight Ashes innings this summer, but he will be remembered as one of the greats of Australian cricket. The tributes have been pouring in from both Australian and English cricketers, and it’s a measure of the man that no-one has a bad word to say about him.
Perhaps his most successful moment came when Australia whitewashed England 5-0 in the last Ashes series, where he personally scored two centuries and averaged 40.33 over the series. His team will want to give him a true captain’s send off, and that may make Australia dangerous, but a more interesting angle is to back the outgoing captain to top score for the Aussies with the bat.
He now knows that this will be his last international match for his country, his last Ashes test, and his last chance to roll back the years and show why he was one of the world’s best. Steven Smith will take over as captain after Clarke’s departure, with David Warner names as vice-captain.
Overall the fragile make-up of this Aussie side is a far cry from the dominant force that won the World Cup on home soil. If England continue to play with such vigor and enthusiasm they could easily steamroller Australia again, and they are the call for the match winner. A side bet on Clarke is also recommended as he will be utterly focused on going out with a bang, and is a big enough price to have a small punt on.
To Win the Fifth Test, Starts 20th August: