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.