The Ashes Are Australia’s – But Can England Win the Final Test?

Australia snatched the Ashes trophy from under England’s noses at the weekend – but the hosts could still secure a series draw. So, what went wrong in the fourth Test and what’s the situation going into the fifth?

The Battle for The Ashes – The Story of Test Four

The first day was a gloomy one for the home supporters at Old Trafford. Not only was much of the day lost to rain, Steve Smith ensured that the visiting cricket fans were the only ones to enjoy any really sunny moments. There was a glimmer of hope for England before lunch, thanks to Overton, Broad and Archer, but Smith scored a half-century and the Aussies finished the day on 170-3, taking the shine off of England’s third Test victory.

The outlook for England looked bleaker and bleaker as the second day progressed. Smith succeeded in scoring his third Test double century and, although the Aussies had some tricky moments, England’s chances of winning the renowned cricket trophy were starting to look slim. Stokes’ departure from the field partway through his over, due to a shoulder injury, piled more misery onto the home team’s fans. By the end of the day, England were trailing their opponents by 474 runs.

The temperamental English weather made sure that the third day’s morning session was a washout and the players didn’t take to the field until early afternoon. When play finally got underway, the hosts appeared to be ready to put up a fight. The Aussies found the conditions to be challenging and England managed to make at least some progress. With 297 runs separating the teams at the end of the day, however, Joe Root’s men would need to stage another spectacular recovery if they wanted the trophy to be theirs.

The Aussies put pay to England’s plans to catch them on day four, however, declaring at 186 for 6, and then dismissing Burns and Root in short order. England went on to throw everything they had at the Australians on the final day but, in the end, it simply wasn’t enough and their opponents triumphed by 185 runs. As a result, the visitors will retain the trophy – but can England win the fifth Test?

The Final Test – Can England Show Their Mettle?

On Monday, England announced that their squad for the fifth Test would be the same as for the fourth, although Ben Stokes would need to undergo a fitness assessment before taking part. Should Stokes be unable to bowl, Sam Curran or Chris Woakes will take his place, and he’ll participate as a specialist batsman instead.

With Steve Smith in exceptional form, however, and Australia buoyant after their fourth Test victory, defeating the visitors will be difficult. England have proved that they can perform miracles but, perhaps tellingly, their only win of the series so far came when Smith was out of action.

The hosts will certainly be keen to put on a show at the Oval and level the series to save face. The Test, which begins on Thursday 12 September, will also be the last they play under Trevor Bayliss’s leadership, so they’ll want to do their departing head coach proud. However, they’ll need to step up their game, particularly when it comes to batting, and the Aussies will be ready to take advantage of any errors they make.

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