WICKET! Denly c Smith b Cummins 14 (England 27-1)
Cummins gets the breakthrough, juggled by Smith at second slip at the second attempt. A tad fuller, Denly can’t help himself. Poor shot.
8th over: England 27-0 (Burns 13, Denly 14) Siddle into the attack from the Vauxhall End, his fourth Test Match at The Oval. Quite the achievement for an Australian. He has Denly ripping his bottom hand off the bat to begin with a ball that bites but the opener makes the most of a ropey ball to finish, slapping three down the ground.
7th over: England 24-0 (Burns 13, Denly 11) Cummins beats Burns for the fourth time so far, with another he had to play at early in the set. But he sticks to the task, taking a ball of his hip away to the rope behind square. I get the feeling he might be out there for a while.
“Morning.” Hi , Jonathan Taylor. “Is this Englands longest ever Tail? While Curran & Woakes are both excellent no. 9 batsmen, at 8 Woakes can only be deemed as alright & coming in at 7 Curran is not exactly inspiring – even less so below the current top 6, Archer is again 1 place too high at 9. Likewise the out of form Buttler at 6 similarly the double-barrelled Bairstow-Bowled coming in at 5 whose current technique of leaving the gate open seems to have us on an endless loop: pitch it up and through it goes.”
Yep, that isn’t ideal but I still can’t work out how it has taken until now to find a way for Sam Curran to get a run in this series.
6th over: England 20-0 (Burns 9, Denly 11) That’ll do, shot of the morning so far from Burns, driving Hazlewood down the ground for four. Sure enough, the big quick is straight back on it finding his inside edge – top bowling. Denly’s turn, edging through the cordon for four more. That’s not far away at all from the four catchers.
“Is it possible the captaincy affected Steve Smith’s batting, but because the numbers were so good, nobody noticed?” poses Nick Donovan. “I expect his average to be North of 70 – a conservative prediction – by the time the Ashes in 2021 roll around.”
Well, Smith averages 75 since his breakthrough ton here in 2013, which is 99 innings ago. If he does go at 75 through to 2021 – 60-odd hits? – that should have him comfortably into the 70s. Extraordinary.
5th over: England 11-0 (Burns 4, Denly 7) Another big lbw shout, this time Cummins v Denly. It’s turned down by Umpire Dharmasena. It looks like an inside edge, so they don’t review. The bowler remains right on top, winning a bottom edge that runs away for four – his first boundary. Ooh, then he nearly loses his wicket from a ball that beats him on the inside of the bat but somehow doesn’t clip the off-stump on the way through. Classy bowling but he survives.
“I see that Marsh has a ‘Mitchell’ printed on the back of his shirt along with his surname,” notes Abhijato Sensarma. “First time an individual’s full name has been printed on a Test jersey?” Yep, a nice obscure one to get us going. I used to get a real kick out of the small ‘Mark’ and ‘Steve’ on the Waugh brothers’ ODI kits as a kid.
4th over: England 7-0 (Burns 4, Denly 3) Watching the replay back a few times, I can see why Erasmus gave it out, hitting on the back leg deep in the crease, albeit with the thigh pad. Burns keeps his cool after the close call, leaving the last couple. What an nice story he is this week, by the way. The Surrey captain has played all over the world since making his debut the Test after this one in 2019 and now, at last, he gets to turn out on his home ground. One of the few batsmen with their reputation enhanced through this series.
NOT OUT! Pitching and hitting in line too but going over the top of the off-stump. Excellent bowling from Hazlewood but not to be.
IS BURNS OUT LBW TO HAZLEWOOD? He’s given but going straight upstairs. Stand by.
3rd over: England 7-0 (Burns 4, Denly 3) The sun is bright now; those thick clouds won’t be around for long. That is, assuming clouds do get burned through by the sun? We always say it, but surely that’s not a real thing – or is it? Denly has his first look at Cummins and does it well, playing with soft hands behind point for a couple.
2nd over: England 5-0 (Burns 4, Denly 1) Denly pushes his first ball to square leg and tries to leave the second but it bounces a fraction more, deflecting off his blade. Hazlewood then aims for his hip but the Kent veteran is up to the task, pushing the first run of the match behind square. I’m Team Joe Denly, by the way. I should declare that before we go much further. Burns’ turn against the Bendemeer Bullet, copping a whack on the thigh pad but responding with a lovely square drive, racing away across the practice pitches for four to the Harleyford Road side of the ground. That’ll feel good. Cue every commentator discussing the value you get square of the wicket here at The Oval – wouldn’t have it any other way. Droll, Vish.
1st over: England 0-0 (Burns 0, Denly 0) Burns is beaten to begin, Cummins angling nicely away from the home ground boy. Ohh, he does it again with his third offering, an absolute gem that swings in before jagging away. Nobody is hitting that. There is that scrambled seam we keep hearing so much about. Burns gets bat on ball to midwicket then leaves to finish. An excellent maiden to kick us off.
Thank you, JP. We’ve had the toss and Jerusalem, now it is time for the teams. Here they are, running down the stairs of the Bedser Stand. The cloud is thick, the grass is visible. This should be fun. Burns is taking the first ball, Denly up the other end. Cummins is bowling the first over, running in from the pavilion end. PLAY!
Thank you all, as ever, for your contributions. The OBO is a pleasure on mornings like this – which have been common during this series.
I’ll be back again tomorrow. See you then.
Andy Burridge hits the nail on the head. “Some talk over the past few days of people, including Graeme Swann, suggesting Root give up the captaincy to focus on his batting. I just wondered if not him, then who? Jos is surely far too out of form and Broad is probably the next senior player but seems a bit too reckless for the role. I’d rather we make a call now to give the person time to settle into the role before the next series but we seem very light on candidates?” I haven’t seen or heard anyone suggesting anybody other than Broad as a realistic alternative, but then at his stage of his career, he’s hardly a guarantee to front up to every series is he?
“I am wondering why Joe Root is allowed, by the England cricket management, to play in every cricket match/format?” asks Arthur Graves. “If they really are management then isn’t their job to manage? Which includes protecting players from themselves.”
David Horn has sent in an excellent email. “I’m always surprised by how openly the captain who loses the toss tells the world what s/he would have done had they won. It seems that there is no advantage to letting it be known one way or another, and something to be lost in saying so. It can reveal a defensive / attacking mindset approaching a game, or give food for thought over whether the captain backs his bowlers over his batters in different conditions (and vice versa). Surely saying ‘it doesn’t matter what we’d have done’ is perfectly adequate and gives nothing away. I tell you, when I’m England captain, this will all change.”
“Personally I’d have thought it more accurate to say England had an outside chance of winning one rain affected match, and were fortunate to win the other solely because the officiating umpire was blind to perhaps the most obviously plumb LBW of the series,” emails John Phaceas, in response to Simon Yates. “Truth be told, the scoreline should be 3-0 heading into today’s match.”
Phil Hall is straight in with the upside of Tim Paine’s call at the toss. “The good news is that England won’t be following on.”
Dylan Pugh with a neat stat. “If Cummins keeps up his six wickets a match average from the series, without taking a five-fer, it’ll be a record for the most wickets in a series without having taken a Michelle. Shane Warne currently has the record with 29, in the ‘93 Ashes. Cummins on 24.”
Simon Yates has set you all off hasn’t he? Steve Smith’s excellence this series is being compared to: Wayne Gretzky (nominated by Jonathan Oliver), Jonah Lomu (thanks Simon Platt), and, magnificently, Ian Bell. “In the 2013 Ashes, definitely Maradona-esque in his influence on that series and I don’t understand why Theresa did not give him a knighthood.” Thanks Tom Banks.
Jeremy Yapp has made a thoughtful contribution on the Boycott saga. “I am sure you don’t want an inbox full of Boycott emails, but I can report that something good came out of the knighthood announcement. It prompted a terrific breakfast table conversation between me and my two young sons (nine and ten), first some stuff about domestic violence that they knew already (phew!) but then about South Africa, racism and the effect the Rebel tours had on the black and anti-Apartheid campaigners, especially how those tours set back the struggle for equal rights in South Africa. We finished the discussion by agreeing that, also, if most of your conversation consists of anecdotes about yourself then it’s good to have a few self-deprecating stories on hand. Otherwise you can come across as a bit of a tosser.”
Still surprised at Tim Paine’s decision at the toss. There’s some grass on the pitch and a bit of cloud around, but it’s a very un-Australian call. Perhaps they don’t see the surface deteriorating too much in favour of Nathan Lyon, making the opening couple of sessions bets for bowling?
England have made just the two changes despite around half-a-dozen spots being up for grabs at the fag end of a disappointing series. Unsurprisingly, Chris Woakes returns in place of Craig Overton in the attack, while further up the batting order patience with Jason Roy has finally run out. His replacement, however, is not like-for-like with Sam Curran selected, in part to cover the overs lost as a consequence of Ben Stokes’s injured shoulder.
The upshot of all that is Joe Denly has another chance to stake his claim as an opener, Ben Stokes will come out at four as a specialist batsman, Jonny Bairstow moves up to five, and Jos Buttler to six, the latter two under considerable scrutiny.
England: Burns, Denly, Root ©, Stokes, Bairstow (wk), Buttler, Curran, Woakes, Archer, Leach, Broad
Australia have made two changes to their line-up as they look to avoid any complacency and wrap up a series victory. The most interesting switch sees all-rounder Mitchell Marsh come in for his first Test of the series, replacing Travis Head. It’s been a steep decline over the course of the series for Head, beginning the tour a fixture in the middle-order and one of Australia’s vice-captains, and ending it overtaken convincingly by Marnus Labushagne with selectors favouring both Marsh and Matthew Wade in much tighter decisions. Elsewhere, Peter Siddle’s control replaces Mitchell Starc’s aggression in the bowling attack.
Australia: Warner, Harris, Labuschagne, Smith, Marsh, Wade, Paine (c) (wk), Cummins, Siddle, Hazlewood, Lyon
Australia win the toss and field
Ok, so this has thrown me. Tim Paine has won the toss and he’s decided to bowl first. There’s a bit of cloud cover this morning and there’s some grass on the pitch, but I did not see this coming.
Andy Bull has contemplated the lot of Joe Root, a victim of his own excellence.
You may have missed it in between his being lbw to Josh Hazlewood for 71 and being bowled by Pat Cummins for a duck, but Root actually reached a century at Old Trafford last week. The second day of the fourth Test was the 100th day in the last 365 that Root has spent playing cricket for England, Yorkshire and the Sydney Thunder. Most of the rest were spent on planning meetings, press conferences, gym and net sessions and all that travel, around and across England, Sri Lanka, Australia and the West Indies.
Simon Yates would like the record to reflect the gap between these two sides has not been a chasm, but a shape matching the outline of Steve Smith. “They have had one batsman performing at a truly incredible level, and that’s won them the series (and fair enough). For sure Cummins and Hazlewood have been terrific – but so have Broad and Archer. The Aussie pair’s numbers are a bit better, but of course they are as they haven’t had to bowl at Smith. In truth it’s been two desperately mediocre batting units facing two strong attacks, but with the Aussies having one absolute all time great playing at his very peak to give them the win. We were denied a win by the rain in the match where Smith could only bat once, and won the game when he couldn’t bat at all. But we were heavily beaten in the games where he was fit throughout. It’s all been about Smith. Hard to think of another case in a team sport of one person being so ridiculously, completely ahead of all the others on his own and other teams. Maradona in the 1986 World Cup maybe?”
Hard to disagree, and an excellent OBO conversation starter.
It would be a fitting end to the series. Operation Yolohammer: Paine win’s the toss, Smith opens, bats for nearly three days, in so doing plunging Australia into a period of mass anxiety at the realisation the conversation over The Don’s untouchable status will finally have to be aired.
Kim Thonger has logged on, and he’s taken the opportunity to throw a dead cat on the table to contextualise any England fans mourning the failure to regain the Ashes. “Now that we’ve failed to retain the urn I’ve turned my attention to other worrying matters, and have come across something called the Year 2038 problem, which will mean rather a large proportion of computers and devices cannot encode times after 03:14:07 UTC on 19 January 2038. I’m actually not making this up, it’s a thing, and I’d just like to give a heads up to scorers and statisticians so they can start planning their response and/or saving for whizzy new devices configured to not go wonky. 64bit architecture is good apparently. It’s only 19 years away after all. Steve Smith will likely still be batting.”
We probably have to mention Sir Geoffrey Boycott, don’t we?
Marina Hyde has got involved, which is never a bad thing.
A recap of the facts: in 1998, Boycott was convicted by a French court of assaulting his then‑girlfriend, a verdict off which he continues to smash soundbites with outrageous abandon. Those who regard no morning as complete if they haven’t lost their shit with Radio 4’s Today programme were certainly given what they wanted on Tuesday, as Boycott was interviewed on the news of his knighthood. “I don’t give a toss about her, love,” was his retort to Martha Kearney’s mention that the chief executive of Woman’s Aid had called his knighthood “extremely disappointing”.
Matthew Engel shares his many years of experience reporting on the former England opener.
He was always a divisive figure. There was his batting, notable for its skill and tenacity but also for its turgidity and self-absorption, tending towards selfishness.
The captains have had their say.
Build towards winning in Australia and use the next two years to focus on putting in a winning tour Down Under. That’s a real incentive for everyone: to be part of something special down there.
We’re very hungry. Last week’s result at Old Trafford was brilliant but all the guys know this is bigger, this is our Grand Final. We want this Test just as much as any other in this series.
James Robinson is in the live rubber camp. “The Aussies have been much the better team and deserve to win the series,” he emails, “so to draw it would be particularly beautiful.” Without projecting my views too strongly on others, in a summer that has contained a World Cup victory – and not just any World Cup victory, THAT World Cup victory – snatching a late draw in a home series that doesn’t recapture the Ashes all feels a bit, meh. That notwithstanding, I am still looking forward to the cricket for cricket’s sake.
Your reading list for this unit is, as ever, topped by Vic Marks. And he does a finer job than I of making the case for this Test to not be regarded as a dead rubber.
The Ashes may be gone but the notion of a dead rubber seldom applies when England meet Australia. A Test match between these two nations has a life of its own. There is now the added incentive of points in the Test Championship (no irony intended here, let’s give it a go) and a drawn series would be a welcome rarity in Ashes cricket.
Hello everybody and welcome to live OBO coverage of the opening day of the fifth and final Test of the Ashes from the Oval.
This is technically not a dead rubber, but it could be euphemistically described as resting. The destination of the Ashes has already been decided, and Australia celebrated the retention of the urn at Old Trafford like schoolkids on the last day of term, complete with drinking on a playing field and mocking some kid with glasses. Meanwhile England have been putting the right words in the right order to make it appear they are desperate to win at the Oval to draw the series, but there’s been a distinct lack of oomph to the platitudes, like that time Celine Dion covered ACDC. England’s selectors could have done more to heighten anticipation by selecting a couple of greenhorns in advance of overseas tours, but they’ve stuck with the same bunch that have largely failed to capture the imagination, relying on flashes of individual brilliance from a small number of performers to even make a contest out of a series played mostly on Australia’s terms.
Nonetheless, the weather is set fair for five days, there’s not a spare seat in the house, and we should all be cherishing the opportunity to witness Steve Smith bat in such groundbreaking form. Now the Ashes have been resolved and the boos silenced, let’s celebrate the greatness in our midst.
I’ll be around for the next hour or so before Adam Collins takes you through the morning session of play. If you want to be a part of the action you can drop me a line on Twitter or you can send me an email.