Fifth Test – starts 11:00am local time on Thursday, August 20, 2015 at Kennington Oval, London
England – 2.30 at CrownBet.com
Draw – $4.50 at Sportsbet
Australia – $2.62 at www.Bet365.com
Bruised, battered and thoroughly humbled, Australia will be playing for pride alone when the final Test of Ashes 2015 kicks off this Thursday at The Oval.
Online bookmaker CrownBet has the tourists at $2.62 odds to win the dead rubber in what will be Michael Clarke’s last appearance in international cricket.
Cricket Australia has announced that Steve Smith will assume the Test captaincy at the conclusion of the Ashes series, with the opinion-splitting David Warner stepping up as vice captain in what many see as a somewhat daring appointment.
Should the Aussies see off Clarke in the kind of style he deserves, a 3-2 series scoreline would flatter a side that was utterly obliterated by England at both Edgbaston and Trent Bridge.
They also struggled in their recent tour match against Northamptonshire, with late runs from Pat Cummins (82*) and Nathan Lyon (41) saving the Australians from an embarrassing defeat at the County Ground.
There were red faces among the selectors nonetheless after another impressive performance from Mitchell Marsh, who tore through the Hants top order with four wickets for 56 before racking up 68 with the bat.
The West Australian allrounder was dropped for the fourth Test in favour of his brother, Shaun, who managed a grand total of two runs for the match in the number four slot.
Australian head coach Darren Lehmann admitted after the Nottingham debacle that the selection panel had made a huge blunder in switching the Marshes, so Mitch is expected to reclaim his spot for the fifth Test in London.
Cummins, who cleaned up the tail with three wickets at Wantage Road, could also come in for just his second Test appearance, with Josh Hazlewood a chance to miss after indifferent displays at Birmingham and Notts.
England ($2.30 at CrownBet), meanwhile, probably won’t change much as they look to put the finishing touches on yet another successful Ashes series on home soil – their fourth in a row since 2005.
And as the hosts have never won more than three Tests in an Ashes series on their own patch, you can bet Alastair Cook and company will keep their feet firmly on the gas as they look to make it 4-1.
The England captain said in a recent interview that he was uncertain of his future before the 2015 Ashes, but that no such doubts linger any longer as he aims to make history at Kennington.
Asked whether he would continue as skipper, Cook told the Daily Mail: “I pretty much decided last Sunday.
“I woke up and immediately started thinking about trying to win the Ashes 4-1 and then about what we will have to do to win against Pakistan.
“It came quickly to me to start planning ahead and that told me that I probably wanted to carry on a bit longer.
“It absolutely has been on my mind. At the start of this summer I didn’t know what was going to happen and I wasn’t sure if I would continue beyond the Ashes.
“But while you’ve still got the opportunity to be England captain and you’ve still got more to give, which I now feel I have, then you need to carry on and give it your all.”
Cook’s bid for an historic 4-1 Ashes win could be bolstered by the return of veteran seamer Jimmy Anderson, who missed the third and fourth Tests after suffering a side strain during England’s loss at Lord’s last month.
Anderson’s fitness could mean a tough call over whether to keep Mark Wood or Steven Finn, both of whom have provided some quality support for man of the series Stuart Broad.
The only other major selection issue for the Three Lions is the second opener’s slot, as Adam Lyth has scored a paltry 86 runs at 12.28 in seven innings this series.
2015 Ashes squads
England: Alastair Cook (C), Moeen Ali, James Anderson, Jonny Bairstow, Ian Bell, Stuart Broad, Jos Buttler, Steven Finn, Adam Lyth, Adil Rashid, Joe Root, Ben Stokes, Mark Wood.
Australia: Michael Clarke (C), Fawad Ahmed, Pat Cummins, Brad Haddin, Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Johnson, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Shaun Marsh, Peter Nevill, Chris Rogers, Peter Siddle, Steven Smith, David Warner, Shane Watson, Adam Voges.
Fifth Test match predictions
Match result – England to win ($2.30 at CrownBet)
Draw no bet – England ($1.80 at www.Luxbet.com)
Highest opening partnership – Australia ($1.80 at Sportsbet)
While Australia may be more competitive here than in the last two Tests, it’s hard to ignore a confident England outfit which still has plenty to play for – namely, that elusive 4-1 scoreline.
Joe Root is one of the best bats on the planet right now, Stuart Broad is in the form of his life, and the whole camp is full of rare confidence and purpose.
The forecast is cloudy but dry in Surrey from Thursday onwards, so a draw seems unlikely in a series where no Test has lasted longer than four days.
If there is some unexpected wet weather, or if the Kia Oval pitch proves as batter-friendly as the Lord’s one did, $1.80 match odds on a draw no bet for England is pretty good value.
There’s some good money to be had on the Aussies, too – for even though Ali Cook is in fine spirits, you have to back the excellent Chris Rogers and Dave Warner to continue their tandem act at the top of the Australian order.
Top team batsman betting
England – Joe Root ($3.75 at William Hill)
The 24-year-old Yorkshiremen leads all comers with 443 runs in Ashes 2015, including two centuries and two fifties. He is England’s best player – and the world’s top Test batsman, according to the ICC rankings – so he has to be your first option to lead the hosts’ run-making efforts at The Oval.
Australia – David Warner ($4.50 at Luxbet.com)
While never quite hitting his highest notes, Australia’s pugnacious southpaw has been a rare consistent performer with four half-centuries this series. Buoyed by his appointment as vice captain, we could see Warner really unleash as the visitors seek to salvage some pride at the last.
Best value bets for most wickets
England – Stuart Broad ($3.50 at Bet365)
While he’s been a fine cricketer for many years now, few could have predicted just how much damage Broad would inflict upon the Baggy Greens this English summer. His eight wickets for 15 in the first innings at Trent Bridge ranks among the all-time great Ashes bowling displays, while his series tally of 21 scalps at 18.09 makes him the obvious favourite to keep knocking over Aussie batsmen.
Australia – Mitchell Starc ($3.60 at www.Bet365.com)
None of the Aussies’ much-lauded quicks have shown any sustained form on this tour, but limited-overs specialist Starc has been the most dangerous, the most often. With talk that Hazlewood might sit out for Cummins, Starc – who has 18 Ashes wickets at a 39.4 strike rate – looks the best bet at Kennington.
Michael Clarke specials markets
Two of the best 2015 Ashes betting sites, CrownBet.com and Sportsbet.com, are running a stack of Test match specials to celebrate Michael Clarke’s final appearance for Australia. Here are some of the hottest cricket props and exotics for Pup’s last stand:
To ‘do a Bradman’ and make a first innings duck – $17 at CrownBet
To finish his career with a 50.00+ batting average – $21 at CrownBet
To score a fifty in the match – $1.60 at Sportsbet
To score a century in the match – $4.50 at Sportsbet
To score a double century in the match – $21 at Sportsbet
To score a triple century in the match – $81 at Sportsbet
To outscore new captain Steve Smith head to head – $2.40 at CrownBet
To take a wicket in the match – $7 at CrownBet
To hit a six in the match – $2.75 at Sportsbet
To score a century, hit a six, take a catch and take a wicket – $67 at Sportsbet
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