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Posted at: Sep 12, 2019, 7:26 AM; last updated: Sep 12, 2019, 7:26 AM (IST)ASHES 5TH TEST

Ashes retained, Australia go for series triumph

London, September 11

Australia head to the Oval hungry to win their first Ashes series in England since 2001 as the peerless Steve Smith seeks to inflict further pain on the hosts. Tim Paine’s men finally saw off stubborn England at Old Trafford on Sunday to take a 2-1 lead in the five-Test series with just one match to go, meaning they will retain the urn. To stand any chance of levelling the series, the World Cup winners 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.

The former captain, top of the international rankings, 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 felled by a Jofra Archer bouncer.

Given a full series, the freakish Smith might well have been even closer to Don Bradman’s mark 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 No. 1 Pat Cummins catching the eye with 42 wickets between them. Australia have made one change with all-rounder Mitchell Marsh coming in to bolster the bowling attack. He replaces Travis Head. Australia coach Justin Langer, revelling in having the world’s top-ranked batsman and bowler at his disposal, is urging the other batsmen to step up in the match starting tomorrow, even though he admits they lack experience. 

Roy dropped

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.

Their failure in the Ashes has prompted questions over the Yorkshireman’s position, but outgoing coach Trevor Bayliss is adamant the captain retains the support of the England hierarchy.

England dropped batsman Jason Roy. The out-of-form Roy is one of two changes to the side, with bowler Craig Overton also missing out. They are replaced by all rounder Sam Curran and Chris Woakes. Ben Stokes will play as a batsman only after injuring his shoulder at Old Trafford. — Agencies

671 runs scored by Steve Smith in just five innings at an astonishing average of more than 134

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