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Dean Wilson: England must forego experimentation in search of historic victory

19 Aug | BY Betway | MIN READ TIME |
Dean Wilson: England must forego experimentation in search of historic victory

With the Ashes won England could look to the future, but the Daily Mirror cricket correspondent insists they must concentrate on the here and now

It is one of the pointless games that the media and the England captain play with each other.

Before every match one of our responsible number asks for some team news and ever since Andrew Strauss took on the job the answer has been the same.

“We’ll announce our team at the toss, but what I will say is that we will pick the best eleven to win the match.”

That phrase was used ad infinitum by Strauss and somewhat unsurprisingly it has been copied to the letter by Alastair Cook since he took charge.

In fact, the last England captain to give us the team before the day of the game was Kevin Pietersen – and things didn’t work out too well in that department.

There is nothing wrong with keeping your cards close to your chest until you absolutely have to – especially if you fancy springing a surprise on your opposition, or until you’ve seen the pitch on the morning of the game.

It is a little disingenuous, though, on the occasions when the team selected is not with the express thought of winning the game in front of them, but rather looking a little further down the line.

Perhaps they want to take the chance to rest a key bowler before another big assignment.

Perhaps they want to have a look at another player to see how he might handle Test cricket.

These are both valid issues when it comes to selection, but at the start of a big series they are totally ignored because the only thing that matters is winning.

And so to this week at the Kia Oval, where, taking an unassailable 3-1 lead into the game, England must push for a 4-1 final scoreline and another piece of Ashes history.

11/8 – England to win fifth Test

Of course, there will be the temptation to mix it up a little bit by giving leg-spinner Adil Rashid a game on a pitch that takes plenty of turn at this stage of the summer.

After all, England coach Trevor Bayliss has said that he would like to play two spinners at some stage of the series.

It would be a chance to give Rashid his Test debut without too much pressure in front of a home crowd and with nothing to lose – except a Test match of course.

With a tough tour to the UAE to come against Pakistan, where Rashid is set to join Moeen Ali as the second spinner, it would be a chance for him to ease into Test cricket before that series.

Only, you don’t ‘ease’ into Test cricket, and certainly not into Ashes cricket, even if the series is won.

A Test match is a big event in its own right and Rashid would feel just as much pressure this week as he will in the Emirates.

The obvious example of this was in 2013 when Simon Kerrigan was picked for a Test debut at the Kia Oval with the series wrapped up 3-0 with one to play.

It was a disaster for the Lancashire left-arm spinner who was playing so that England could find out if they had a viable alternative to Monty Panesar for the tour that winter. They didn’t.

Kerrigan’s experience was an awful one for him as he failed to bowl with any control and his nerves took hold, but it highlighted just how unforgiving Test cricket can be at any stage of a series.

Australia are hurting. They have a captain and opening batsman retiring after this game and perhaps one or two others following fairly swiftly thereafter.

There is no way they will be leaving South London without trying everything to take another Test win back home with them and it is England’s responsibility to stop them.

13/8 – Australia to win fifth Test

They will do that with another seamer friendly surface and by playing four quick bowlers and Moeen Ali as the spinner. It is a combination that Australia have failed to deal with three times.

Do it once more and England will have won four home Ashes matches in a series for the first time.

If and when Rashid gets his chance, he will give it his best shot.

In the meantime, picking a team to win this Test match at the Kia Oval should mean just that.

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READ: Simon Hughes: A lively, triumphant finale in prospect for England

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