England have named an unchanged squad for the 5th and final Test of the Ashes series, which starts on Thursday.
The visitors, leading 2-1 after four Tests, will retain the Ashes irrelevant of the result at the Oval.
A stunning Steve Smith double century in the first innings at Old Trafford followed by a quick fire 82 in the second innings put the Aussies in the driving seat. And on the fifth evening, at a packed out Old Trafford, Australia delivered the final blow.
England had threatened to pull off another remarkable fight back, but in the end fell just short. Denly dug deep earlier in the day putting on 53. Jason Roy, Jonny Bairstow and Jos Buttler showed grit and determination to carry England through to the final session. And then England’s ninth wicket pair of Craig Overton and Jack Leach survived 14 overs, including a barrage of short deliveries with the new ball. The Old Trafford crowd grew in belief. Another miracle, surely not?
Australia looked lost for ideas, so much so Tim Paine turned to part time leg spinner Marnus Labuschagne. And it worked. The breakthrough they needed. Leach the victim.
Overton, who’d performed admirably to stay at the crease for 105 balls, fell shortly after. Trapped LBW to Josh Hazlewood with 13.3 overs remaining. So close, yet so far.
Cue the Aussie celebrations. They deserve it. Steve Smith has been simply unplayable and he’s 5/4 to be Australia’s top run scorer in the first innings
If there’s one positive for England this summer it’s Jofra Archer. The seam bowler has proved he can do it with the red ball and he’s 2/1 to be England’s top wicket taker in the opening innings.
With the Urn heading back down under, England will be hoping to restore some pride by drawing the series. A win is required at the Oval and the hosts are 11/8 to secure their second victory of the series.
The Aussies, buoyed by victory at Old Trafford, are 21/20 to make it back to back wins, while the draw is available at 23/4.