Blog by: Sougat
While Australia haven’t looked the world-beating side of a few years ago in this season, England have simply gone from strength to strength, despite the struggles of a few of their players. There is every chance that the hosts could subject the struggling Kangaroos to a 4-0 defeat at the Oval.
Here is a list of five players to look out for in the fifth and final Ashes Test:
5. Chris Rogers (344 runs)
The bespectacled southpaw has been dismissed quite a few times by wily off-spinner Graeme Swann, but he has been rock-solid at the top of the order. Having returned to the Test fold six years after his debut, Rogers has utilised his knowledge and experience of English conditions well. He scored his maiden Test century in the fourth match, but could not prevent a second-innings collapse that saw his side lose the contest by 74 runs.
With a solid defence and excellent temperament, the left-handed opener has been one of Australia’s few success stories on this nightmarish tour. His paring with Shane Watson at the top of the other hasn’t clicked and it would be wise to stick with the dynamic David Warner, who opened in the fourth Test. Rogers is definitely one player England will watch out for.
4. Ryan Harris (65 runs and 20 wickets)
The burly pacer from Queensland has played only three of the five games so far, but has stamped his class on each with his lion-hearted performances. His magical haul of 7/117 in the fourth Test also wasn’t enough to prevent his side from hurtling towards another defeat.
Not only does Harris bring in that extra yard or two of pace, he has led the pace attack admirably in the wake of injuries sustained by some of his fellow fast bowlers. He knows how to swing the ball and is very accurate despite his bulk. Harris has also made good contributions with the bat in the lower order, as his 65 runs from three matches suggest.
Skipper Michael Clarke admitted at the end of the last game that he had let down his wicket-taking strike bowler. Having been cleared for the Oval Test, Harris knows he has to come up with another powerful performance if Australia are to regain some of their lost pride.
3. James Anderson (32 runs and 17 wickets)
The Lancashire seamer hasn’t done enough justice to his talent after a spirited ten-wicket haul in the first game. He has bowled with fire, but hasn’t managed to get enough purchase from the wickets on offer. The reverse swing, one of his chief weapons, seems to have vanished from his armoury.
Nevertheless, Jimmy has maintained an immaculate line and length throughout the entire series, and has been profligate only on very few occasions. Skipper Alastair Cook hailed him as the world’s best bowler after the win at Trent Bridge and it is high time Anderson repays his faith by dishing out a classy display of swing bowling to ensure Australia’s complete humiliation.
2. Stuart Broad (170 runs and 17 wickets)
Currently third on the list of highest wicket-takers in the ongoing Ashes series, England’s Twenty20 skipper has been a stand-out performer with both bat and ball. He did have his moments of controversy during the first Test, but a resilient half-century in that game helped England to overcome their opponents by a 14-run margin.
The fourth Test completely belonged to Broad as his 6/50 in the second innings derailed Australia’s hopes of winning the match. He took five wickets in the first innings bowling at good pace and extracting just the right amount of bounce needed to leave the batsmen disconcerted. He is definitely a player to watch out for.
1. Ian Bell (500 runs)
The 31-year-old Warwickshire batsman has been on a roll in this series. Three centuries in four matches bear testament to the immense skill and patience that Bell has displayed so far. If not for a mad rush of blood that saw him lose his wicket to Nathan Lyon for 74, he would have had scored four centuries in all the games he’s played in so far.
Bell has been a calming influence on the shaky middle-order, holding the batting together after the entire top order collapsed quite a few times. More often than not, it has been his resolute approach that has dragged England out of danger many times. His partnerships with Kevin Pietersen at Old Trafford and Chester-le-Street laid the foundation for England’s eventual retention of the Ashes.
With 500 runs at an astounding average of 71.42, Bell will be Australia’s chief target and England’s main hope in the middle order. He will look to continue from where he left off in Durham and steer his side to a possible fourth win.