What’s riskier? Playing or resting Cummins
THE Ashes are retained, but not won.
With one Test still to go, both teams still have plenty to play for at The Oval.
Will the Aussies swing a bowling change? What will the batting line look like? Russell Gould looks at all the burning questions ahead of the final Test.
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WILL THE FIRE STILL BURN FOR AUSTRALIA TO GO AGAIN AT THE OVAL?
To a man the Australian team has a relentless desire to secure Australia's first series win in England since 2001. With the Ashes retained, that goal is one win away. The celebrations in the immediate hours after the win at Old Trafford gave every indication they would be long, and strong. The singing of the team song, on the ground, not once, but twice, was evidence of how much the victory meant. But the celebrations would be a one-night only deal, because the job Justin Langer and Tim Paine came to do it is not over.
WHO WILL BOWL THERE?
Steve Smith's batting has been superhuman but Pat Cummins hasn't been far behind. After a full World Cup workload he's played all four Ashes Tests too, bowling more overs (164) than anyone other than Nathan Lyon (214) and his 24 wickets are five better than everyone. He wants to play all five but Australian officials would be wary he could hit breaking point, and a three-day break between games could be telling. They have James Pattinson and Peter Siddle fit and ready to go and Josh Hazlewood, has been as impressive as Cummins, bowling 121 overs in his three games. Mitchell Starc's four wickets in Manchester showed that whoever Australia turns out at The Oval, it would be a handful for an English batting line-up which hasn't stood up.
WHAT ABOUT AUSTRALIA'S BATTING?
Changes seem needed, but look unlikely with the Ashes secured despite a run of outs for David Warner the likes of which he has never encountered. The noise coming from the Australian camp about the others who haven't fired, like Marcus Harris and Travis Head, is that they are young in their Test careers and deserve the time others have had to thrive. Steve Smith's efforts have made the lack of runs from everyone else less significant, and with the momentum and confidence of the urn being in their back pockets, it's more than likely everyone will get another go. The available alternatives, Usman Khawaja and Cameron Bancroft, have had their chance too and failed. So short of turning to Mitchell Marsh, the current line-up should probably stay.
WILL ENGLAND MAKE CHANGES?
In the immediate aftermath of becoming the first England captain to lose the Ashes on home soil since 2001, England skipper Joe Root couldn't commit to what his team might look like at The Oval. With the series still available to draw, the men who have come through four Tests could be given the chance to right the wrongs of giving up the urn. But the all-out effort of Stuart Broad thorough four Tests, and his late fade-out in Manchester, could be telling with a three-day back-up. England want to look after Jofra Archer too, who was up and down at Old Trafford. Jason Roy was the only real repeat failure with the bat, but his second innings score, and batting in the middle order, could be something the home team wants to persist with. A more thorough post-series clean-out however, can't be ruled out.