The Ashes have been retained by a vastly superior Australian side this summer but there are several England careers in the balance when the fifth and final Test starts at the Oval on Thursday.

I am staggered that the selectors have seen fit to name an unchanged 13-man squad for England although I appreciate a win for the hosts would somehow level the series. The Baggy Greens should have won in Leeds, but they were far too good for a second-rate England in Manchester.

I have been banging on for the last month about the fact that Joe Denly, Jason Roy and Jos Buttler are not Test players although the last two are outstanding white-ball cricketers. Ben Stokes’ extraordinary innings at Headingley and some poor decision making by Tim Paine and the umpires has allowed what has been a largely one-sided series go to the final Test. Those factors have flattered England but cannot mask the gulf in class between the sides.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 08: England batsman Jason Roy reacts as he leaves the field after being bowled by Pat Cummins during day five of the 4th Ashes Test Match between England and Australia at Old Trafford on September 08, 2019 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

England have gone out of the way to accommodate Roy and Buttler in their batting line-up after their World Cup success earlier in the summer but let’s examine the facts: Roy has never batted for two full sessions in his first-class career while Buttler averages 16 this series and has scored just one century in 35 Tests. Remember he is being played as a specialist batsman – yet averages just 32 in first-class cricket! Palpably not good enough.

The good news is that there is little rain forecast for the capital during the five-days and the Baggy Greens are 19/20 at BetVictor to end the series on a high with England 6/4 and the draw at 21/4.

I have also been very disappointed with Jofra Archer over the last couple of Tests and that wonderful spell of sustained fast bowling in the 2nd Test at Lords suddenly seems a very long time ago. We will all have our own theories as to why this has been the case.

Australia must decide themselves whether they persevere with David Warner after three successive ducks. It is well documented that Stuart Broad appears to have the wood over the opener and Warner does have a moderate record in England for such a fine player. That said, I feel the Aussie executive will keep faith with the left-hander, especially with fellow opener Marcus Harris also struggling for runs in Manchester, scoring just 13 and six.

Australia's David Warner walks back to the pavilion after losing his wicket for no runs during the fourth day of the fourth Ashes cricket Test match between England and Australia at Old Trafford in Manchester, north-west England on September 7, 2019. (Photo by Oli SCARFF / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. NO ASSOCIATION WITH DIRECT COMPETITOR OF SPONSOR, PARTNER, OR SUPPLIER OF THE ECB (Photo credit should read OLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images)

Warner is 9/2 at BetVictor to top score for the Aussies in the first dig and that might be too big. It certainly would be if he got through the opening hour of Broad and Archer!

Australia have been a class apart from England over the last month and a 2-2 scoreline would obviously not reflect their domination over Root’s tepid England. Australia have England on the canvass and they are taken to refocus their attentions in time for the Oval, although they are reported to have partied deep into the night in Manchester on Sunday.

The Ashes are retained –a series win beckons.


Australia to win

David Warner to be top Australia bat in the 1st innings

Odds are correct at the time of posting

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