England have clearly been found wanting in the ongoing five-match series versus Australia. The Brits have been influenced by some brilliant individual performances, but somehow, the hosts haven’t been able to dictate terms to the opposition. The Three Lions have under-performed to such an extent that Tim Paine’s Aussies have taken an unassailable 2-1 lead with one match remaining.
Ben Stokes saved the day for the home team at the Headingley in Leeds, but couldn’t help his team evade a 185-run loss at the Old Trafford in Manchester. With Australia already retaining the urn, the action now shifts to the fifth and final Test, scheduled to get underway on Thursday, September 12. It goes without saying that the pressure will be on Joe Root and Co to somehow churn out a victory.
The visitors, on the other hand, have had their difficulties in phases. But the team has done well as a unit with Steve Smith being the standout performer. At the KIA Oval, the Aussies have won seven out of their 37 matches, losing 16 of them. However, the last time the two sides played a Test back in August 2015 at the particular venue, Australia came out trumps by an innings and 46 runs.
Ben Stokes pulled a shoulder muscle, yet he might play. But if his shoulder doesn’t recover in time, then there’s a chance of him, playing as a specialist batsman. If that happens, then either Chris Woakes or Sam Curran is likely to be included in the eleven. In that scenario, the axe may come down on Jason Roy, who has the least amount of runs for an English specialist batsman in the series.
Roy was demoted to the middle-order after his failures as the opener, but the tactic didn’t work. At the top, Burns has been outstanding as he is England’s second-highest run-getter after Stokes. Denly scoring a fifty as the opener is a positive sign for the Brits. Consistency has eluded Buttler and Bairstow. In the bowling area, Broad and Archer need to shoulder a chunk of the responsibility.
Rory Burns, Joe Denly, Joe Root (C), Ben Stokes, Jonny Bairstow, Jos Buttler, Chris Woakes/Sam Curran, Craig Overton, Jofra Archer, Stuart Broad, Jack Leach
The Aussies may not tinker with their winning combination. Their opening combination has been an issue. Marcus Harris replaced Cameron Bancroft after the first two games, but has scored at only 11.50. David Warner, the other opener, has had a horror run. Apart from his 61 in Leeds, he has scored 18 runs at a forgettable average of 2.57. The southpaw has scored three ducks in a row.
Stuart Broad has accounted for his wicket as many as six times in the series. Steve Smith has been unstoppable and the Aussies will again look up to their premier batsman. Marnus Labuschagne has shown that he has the ability to play under trying conditions. Pat Cummins has 24 wickets in the series and he needs to step up. Mitchell Starc also managed to bowl some peaches in the last game.
Marcus Harris, David Warner, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Travis Head, Matthew Wade, Tim Paine (C & WK), Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood
The focus will be on
Ben Stokes (England)
One of the reasons why England haven’t lost the series is Ben Stokes. The southpaw has bowled his heart out and his exploits with the bat have pulled his team out of the pits on a number of instances. But in the last match, he succumbed to a couple of failures. To add insult to injury, he couldn’t bowl in the second innings due to the shoulder injury. Stokes has to be at his best in the final contest.
Steve Smith (Australia)
For Steve Smith, whatever he’s touching is turning into gold. After returning from the concussion, there were doubts over how he would perform. But he soared above the expectations and got a double century followed by an 82 in the second innings. With 671 runs under his belt, he is already the leading run-scorer in Test cricket in 2019. England need to find a way of getting rid of him early.
Head to Head
Matches played – 334 l Australia won – 136 I England won – 107 I Draw – 91
130– Runs Steve Smith needs to complete 7,000 Test runs. If he gets it, then he’ll become the fastest to the milestone, surpassing Wally Hammond, who achieved the same in 131 innings.
35– Runs Joe Root needs to complete 7,000 Test runs.
TV -Sony SIX, Sony SIX HD
Online – Sony LIV
Match Timings – 15:30 IST, 11:00 local
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