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England’s mixed summer of cricket ends in the next few days as the fifth, and final, Ashes test of an exhilarating series takes place at The Oval. The destination of the prized urn has already been decided with Australia holding a much deserved 2-1 lead with only one game to play, so can they exert their dominance further or will England salvage some pride with a draw? SportPesa picks out a number of selections from the final test.
England to have highest opening partnership: 10/11
Australia have often been able to rely heavily on David Warner to get their innings off to a great start, but the hard-hitting opener has had a nightmare series and hasn’t been able to combat the ruthless onslaught from Stuart Broad. England’s openers haven’t fared much better when facing the new ball, but Rory Burns’ ability to occasional produce a solid knock mean that England have slightly edged the battle of the openers thus far in the series. That should continue at The Oval.
Stuart Broad to be England’s Top First Innings Bowler: 5/2
England were dealt a blow in the opening match when James Anderson broke down injured and was then ruled out for the entire series. Optimistic fans of the home side were hopeful Jofra Archer could emulate his one-day heroics, but it’s been Stuart Broad carrying England’s threat with the ball. The veteran paceman’s place was intended to be up for grabs before the series, but his displays in this series have been fantastic despite not receiving suitable support. He might not hamper Australia’s run building all by himself, but he’ll certainly have the biggest impact.
Steve Smith to be Man of the Match: 4/1
With the pressure somewhat off Australia, it wouldn’t shock anyone to see the batsmen become a little selfish and think about personal milestones. Steve Smith’s reputation before the Ashes started was one filled with disdain due to the ball tampering affair that saw him stripped of the Australian captaincy. Now, his profile is fully repaired, and he’s recognised as one of the sport’s finest ever players. His incredible run of scoring in this series has been mightily impressive and with a number of records well within his sights, Smith may put himself first with the Ashes already confirmed to be heading back down under and that is bad news for England.
Joe Root Top England First Innings Run Scorer: 11/4
Joe Root badly needs a good knock, but he’s no stranger to performing well when the pressure is turned up on him. His performances in this series, including his captaincy, have come under intense scrutiny and there’s even some talk that whoever replaces Trevor Baylis may want to head in a different direction when appointing a captain. If Root wants to remain at the centre of England’s plans moving forward, then he’ll require runs in the final test. He should be backed to get them.
Pat Cummins to be Australia’s Top First Innings Bowler: 7/4
The main weapon in Australia’s brilliant pace attack, and Pat Cummins will head into the fifth test as hungry as ever. His ranking as the world’s best bowler is a position that’s fully justified and where Josh Hazelwood and Mitchell Starc made worthwhile contributions at Old Trafford, it was Cummins who stole the show. He’s had a brilliant summer and he’s fully aware that England’s batsmen fear him. He should be on top form again as he looks to wrap up an emphatic series win for Australia.