Three cricket tips for the final Ashes Test between England and Australia at The Oval, which starts on Thursday.
England to win
The weather scuppered England’s hopes of keeping the series alive, with the weekend in Manchester pretty much a washout.
The hosts were in a commanding position at Old Trafford, with Australia 275 runs behind after the first innings, but the urn will now remain in Australia.
England will be determined to draw the series, though, with many feeling Brendon McCullum’s men should not be behind going into the clash at The Oval.
Having played five Tests in a short space of time, with the World Test Championship prior to the Ashes series, the tourists are looking short on energy.
England can take full advantage of that as they look to build on an impressive recent record at The Oval – where they have won four of their last five Tests.
Their last Test at the London venue was a crushing nine-wicket win over South Africa, when neither team scored over 200 in an innings.
The last time these two teams met at The Oval was September 2019, when England won by 135 runs – just five of the current England team played in that Test.
Mark Wood to be England’s top bowler in the first innings
One thing that England definitely missed in the first two Tests was genuine pace with the ball, which has since been injected by Mark Wood.
His performance at Headingley was key to the hosts’ victory and the Durham paceman took three of the top five scalps at Old Trafford in Australia’s second innings.
It’s worth noting that England’s seam bowlers have enjoyed success at The Oval in recent times, with Ollie Robinson taking seven wickets in last year’s win over the Proteas.
In the 2019 meeting with the Aussies, it was Jofra Archer who stole the show. The paceman took 6-62 in the first innings, including the wickets of the top three Australian batters.
Wood has been consistently hitting 90mph or more in the last two Tests and has twice sent Usman Khawaja back to the pavilion.
Steve Smith to score 50+ runs in the first innings
One concern for England going into the fifth Test will be the form of Steve Smith at The Oval, with the former Australian skipper looking to end the series in style.
Smith was the star when Australia last toured England but has not had the same success this time around. A first-innings ton at Lord’s has been followed by scores of 34, 22, 2, 41, and 17 in his next five innings.
But the 34-year-old has an impressive record at The Oval and he will want to finish what could be his last tour of England, on a high.
Smith has had seven previous Test innings at The Oval and has racked up three centuries – including one against India in the World Test Championship this summer.