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Preview: The Ashes: England vs. Australia Fifth Test - prediction, team news, series so far

Sports Mole previews the fifth Ashes Test between England and Australia at The Oval, including predictions, team news and how the series has gone so far.

The final instalment of what has been a truly exhilarating series will be played out this week as England and Australia head to the capital and will lock horns at The Oval in the fifth Test of the Ashes, starting on Thursday afternoon.

As rain intervened through the backend of the fourth Test at Old Trafford, Australia managed to hold off the English bowling attack in very difficult conditions on day four and, in doing so, managed to retain the coveted urn with the match ending in a draw, leaving them 2-1 in the lead with just one match to go.

Match preview

England batsman Zak Crawley after making 189 against Australia in fourth Ashes Test on July 20, 2023.© Reuters

England were left to rue their poor performances in the first two Tests as they watched the rain bucket down on the final day of the fourth Test, which made it impossible for them to get back on the field when they had the Aussies on the ropes.

The hosts were sensational with the bat, and it seemed as though Bazball was finally going to get the better of the Australians as Zak Crawley (189 runs) and Jonny Bairstow (99 runs not out) led their side to 592 runs in their first innings.

Perhaps, more impressively, though, six of the first seven English batsmen scored half-centuries or better, with only Ben Duckett failing, scoring just one run at the top of the innings.

Chris Woakes and Mark Wood were incredible yet again for the hosts, with the former bagging a fifer in the first innings, while Wood's electric pace in favourable conditions in the second innings proved too much for the Aussie top order as he claimed three of the top five batsmen's wickets in 11 overs before the rain came.

As England took a 275-run lead into the second innings and came out firing with the ball in hand, it genuinely looked like they could pull off one of the best comebacks in Ashes history, but it was not to be as the weather eventually made the match unplayable.

Ben Stokes was bitterly disappointed in his post-match interview but did mention that despite his side not being able to win back the Ashes from this point, they will still give absolutely everything in the final Test to draw the series.

Australia's Mitchell Starc dismisses England's Ben Stokes in third Ashes Test on July 9, 2023.© Reuters

Meanwhile, after another cheap dismissal for the under-pressure David Warner and with Usman Khawaja lasting fewer than five overs, Australia had to dig in through the first innings in order to post their 317-run total.

For the second match in a row, Mitchell Marsh stepped up in a big way with another invaluable contribution, scoring 51 of 60 balls, while Marnus Labuschagne was the only other batsman to reach a half-century in the first innings.

As the English battling lineup delivered some of the most awe-inspiring cricket seen in recent years, the Aussie bowling attack seemed to have no answer, with only Josh Hazlewood finding any success, picking up five wickets at the expense of 126 runs.

At 108/4 in the second innings, it was a grim picture for the visitors, but yet again, Labuschagne and Marsh steadied the ship with a combined tally of 142 runs, which kept their side in the match until the rain ultimately decided the outcome.

The pressure is now off, and with the urn retained, Australia are likely to make a few changes to their team for the fifth and final Test, although they will certainly be expecting a much better performance than in the last match and will want to win the series outright.

Team News

England bowler Stuart Broad celebrates taking his 600th Test wicket on July 19, 2023.© Reuters

Brendon McCullum has announced the squad that will travel to the Oval this week, and the major selection dilemma facing England will be whether to include veteran James Anderson after another underwhelming performance in the last match.

Josh Tongue has been tipped to make the starting 11 if Anderson is left out after the all-rounder impressed at Lords, while Ollie Robinson's recovery has reportedly been going well, and he could feature if passed as fully fit.

Stuart Broad reached a milestone in the Old Trafford Test as he became only the second fast bowler, behind Anderson, to reach 600 Test wickets, and having been one of the most consistent English bowlers in this series, he will likely start on Thursday.

Andrew McDonald mentioned in the week that Marsh and Mitchell Starc are under injury clouds for the last Test, while Michael Neser will be hoping to make his first appearance of the tournament.

Starc picked up a shoulder injury while fielding on day two of the last Test, while Marsh was off the field for a spell in the second innings, and McDonald may be tempted to rest the pair with the series now in the bag.

In the event that one or both of Starc and Marsh are unable to play, off-spinner Todd Murphy and Scott Boland will likely be the frontrunners to receive a recall to the starting 11.

Team A squad: Ben Stokes (capt), James Anderson, Jonny Bairstow, Stuart Broad, Harry Brook, Zak Crawley, Ben Duckett, Dan Lawrence, Moeen Ali, Ollie Robinson, Joe Root, Josh Tongue, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood

Team B squad: Pat Cummins (capt), Scott Boland, Alex Carey, Cameron Green, Marcus Harris, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Mitchell Marsh, Todd Murphy, Michael Neser, Jimmy Pierson, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, David Warner

Series so far

First Test: Australia won by two wickets
England - 393/8d and 273
Australia - 386 and 282/8

Second Test: Australia won by 43 runs
Australia - 416 and 279
England - 325 and 327

Third Test: England won by three wickets
Australia - 263 and 224
England - 237 and 254/7

Fourth Test: Match Drawn
Australia - 317 and 214/5
England - 592

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We say: England to win

With rain predicted across London for most of the week, there is a very good chance that this match could head in the same direction as the fourth Test and end in a draw.

However, if the weather allows for enough cricket to be played to get a result, we fancy that England will level the series, even though it will not be enough to claim the coveted urn.

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England bowler Stuart Broad celebrates taking his 600th Test wicket on July 19, 2023.
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