Australia v England, fifth Ashes Test at The Oval: live
Australia captain Tim Paine wants to put the “icing on the cake” with victory in the fifth Ashes Test as England scramble for a plan to dismiss the insatiable Steve Smith.
The tourists finally saw off stubborn England at Old Trafford on Sunday to take a 2-1 lead in the five-match series with just one match to go, meaning they will retain the urn regardless of the result at the Oval.
To stand any chance of levelling the series England will have to find a way to solve the riddle of the immovable Smith, who has scored 671 runs in just five innings at an astonishing average of more than 134.
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The former captain has carried his team’s batting with three centuries and two fifties, including a double-century in the win in Manchester, with Marnus Labuschagne the only other batsman who has shown any consistency.
Smith, who returned to Test action in England after completing a 12-month ball-tampering ban, has made his mountain of runs despite missing three innings after he was struck by a Jofra Archer bouncer.
Given a full series, the freakish Smith might well have been even closer to Don Bradman’s record of 974 runs for the most runs ever made in a Test series, set in 1930.
The other key factor for Australia has been the strength of their pace attack, with Josh Hazlewood and world number one Pat Cummins catching the eye with 42 wickets between them.
Paine said Australia were “very hungry” to win their first Ashes series in England since 2001 by avoiding defeat in the Oval Test.
“This is our grand final,” he said. “We want this Test just as much as any other Test that we’ve played in this series.”
Cricket: Mitch Marsh reportedly turned down a $3 million IPL contract to make the Australian squad for the Ashes. Marsh has been selected in the squad for the final test match at The Oval.
All-rounder Mitchell Marsh has been called into the 12-man squad in place of batsman Travis Head to ease the workload on Australia’s fast bowlers.
Joe Root must inspire his troops to one last effort after a gruelling season in which England became world champions in the 50-over format for the first time.
“It’s bitterly disappointing to not have got the Ashes back, but we haven’t lost anything yet,” said the defiant England skipper.
“We’ve got to make sure that we square the series up and there’s Test Championship points to play for as well, which down the line could make a huge difference.”
One-day specialist Jason Roy and seamer Craig Overton have been left out of the starting XI, with all-rounders Sam Curran and Chris Woakes coming into the side.
Originally published as Australia look to wrap up historic series win