The fifth Ashes Test: Free betting preview and tips for England v Australia at The Oval

Fifth Test betting preview
Fifth Test betting preview

Richard Mann previews the fifth Ashes Test which gets under way at the The Oval on Thursday with England needing victory to square the series.

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2pts Jofra Archer top first innings England bowler at 11/4


Victory at Old Trafford last week means that Australia have retained the Ashes and even the most loyal of England fans would struggle to argue that it is any less than the tourists deserve.

A brittle batting line-up has been held together brilliantly by Steve Smith while Australia's bowling can lay claim to being the best all-round attack in the world with Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood leading a potent and varied pack of fast bowlers that work so well in tandem with off-spinner Nathan Lyon.

For England, their own bowling attack has been weakened significantly by injuries to James Anderson and the likes of Mark Wood and Olly Stone, meaning a heavy burden has fallen on the likes of Stuart Broad and Jofra Archer.

In truth, but for Ben Stokes' heroics at Headingley, Australia could easily be leading the series 3-0 at this stage, and not 2-1, and the market has finally caught up with their dominance, making them general even money shots to win again in London.

Having been 7/4 for victory in the fourth Test at Old Trafford, there looks to be no juice in their current price and I'm keen to look elsewhere for a bet.

As mentioned already, England captain Joe Root has become heavily reliant on Broad and Archer with the ball, the former taking 19 wickets in the series so far and the latter claiming 16 scalps from one game less.

Despite a few murmurings that Archer was down on pace in the first innings at Old Trafford, that appeared to be down to extremely blustery conditions in Manchester and he bowled quickly and with great skill when picking up 3-45 in the second dig.

With The Oval renowned for producing a hard surface that offers good bounce for the quicker bowlers, he should be Root's key weapon on a ground that doesn't always offer too much in the way of conventional swing to the seamers.

Couple that with the fact that Broad has taken the bulk of his wickets against Australia's left handers when able to shape the ball towards the slips from around the wicket, he might not be quite as dominant this week.

With Stokes also struggling with a shoulder injury, the top England first innings bowler market could prove to be a match and with conditions more likely to suit Archer than Broad, I want to side with the Sussex paceman in this market at 11/4.

Justin Langer and Tim Paine
Click on the image to read Richard Mann's latest Ashes diary

Stokes' shoulder niggle is another blow to Root and coach Trevor Bayliss but England have opted to retain their 13-squad from Old Trafford, meaning that the same struggling batting line-up will be afforded one final chance to right their earlier wrongs and stop Australia from claiming outright series victory.

That means the likes of Jason Roy, Jonny Bairstow and Jos Buttler will be desperate to make a big impact at The Oval in a bid to prolong their Test careers. With winter tours of New Zealand and South Africa on the horizon, there is even more incentive for those players to remind the selectors of their talents.

For all the criticism of England's batting, and some of it is clearly justified, it is hard not to have some sympathy for them given the quality of bowling that they have encountered over the last few weeks.

Cummins has taken 24 wickets in the series so far, comfortably more than anyone else on either side, but he has delivered 164.1 overs in four matches following a World Cup campaign where he again featured in every one of Australia's matches in their run to the semi-finals stage.

With the Ashes now retained, there must surely be a temptation to finally afford Cummins a rest but he continues to impress with his durability and incredible stamina and having already made it clear that they are desperate to win the series outright, Australia might hope he can manage another five days of cricket.

On what we have seen of Cummins all through the summer, he looks up to it and he certainly won't want to miss the final match of an Ashes series he been one of the shining stars of.

That said, Australia have plenty of bowling strength waiting in the wings with the likes James Pattinson and Peter Siddle both missing out in Manchester and whichever way Tim Paine and Justin Langer choose to turn, they are sure to give England's misfiring batsmen another tough examination this week.

The Ashes might be gone and the summer all but over but there is still plenty to play for at The Oval with the stakes very high.

Posted at 1300 BST on 10/09/19.

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