The final Investec Test of the summer against Australia may have no bearing on who wins the Ashes but there is plenty of motivation for England at the Kia Oval. Firstly, it provides a real opportunity to drive home their supremacy.
England have never beaten Australia four times in a home series before so a milestone is on offer but more importantly victory would elevate Alastair Cook’s side to No2 in the Test rankings.
I remember winning the 2010-11 Ashes and thoughts immediately turned to the next series and continuing the challenge for that No1 ranking spot. That has to be the goal and in many ways getting to No1 is more important than winning the Ashes.
With seamer Jimmy Anderson ruled out, England are set to name an unchanged team and I think that’s right.
There was talk of uncapped leg-spinner Adil Rashid being given some Test match experience before the autumn series against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates, where I expect England to play two spinners.
There is a case for Rashid but it could cause more harm than good. I was initially named in the England team to play the final Test against Australia in 2013 at the Kia Oval before being told that Alastair had changed his mind.
He believed the pitch would be drier than originally thought and opted to go with Lancashire spinner Simon Kerrigan, who endured a difficult debut and hasn’t played for England since.
If the pitch is not conducive to turn then England are unlikely to get the best out of Rashid. He’s had a taste of international cricket in the one-dayers against New Zealand and I’m not convinced there is a need to throw him into an Ashes Test.
It’s an important match, however, for opener Adam Lyth, who has struggled this series and averages just 12.28. It’s his last opportunity to get a big score and if he doesn’t I think England may be on the lookout for a new opener.
For those players who were part of the dire whitewash series in Australia 18 months ago, stepping out knowing the Ashes have been regained with a game to spare will be immensely satisfying.
I have never experienced a worse feeling in a dressing room than after the final Test in Sydney. Australia made the most of it and were a bit smug, which they’re allowed to be after dominating a team so much, but it was embarrassing for the England players.
Some of the guys probably thought they may never play Ashes cricket again so to have success against Australia so soon after what they went through will be significant. Cook will probably enjoy it the most after all the criticism he has endured.
On a final note, it is Australia captain Michael Clarke’s final Test before retirement. He has had a great career and his record speaks for itself. He deserves to have a really good send off.