WITH the Ashes long since retained and a series victory also ensured before today’s fifth and final Test, there is an obvious danger that some England players could ease off when play resumes at the Oval today.
But if any team is likely to wilt as the end approaches then I think it’s the tourists, with the chance to inflict a first ever 4-0 defeat on Australia a huge carrot for the hosts. Only six years ago England were whitewashed Down Under, and if I were part of the current team I’d want to be able to tell my grandchildren that I’d near enough returned the favour in 2013.
What’s more, there are a handful of England players who have not performed as well as they would have wished in the three wins and one draw so far, such as captain Alastair Cook, Jonathan Trott and Matt Prior.
Throw in Chris Tremlett, who’ll be keen to make a mark if selected to replace the injured Tim Bresnan, and the ever-eager Ian Bell and Kevin Pietersen, and you have half a team raring to beat the Aussies again.
I particularly fancy wicketkeeper-batsman Prior to shine on an Oval pitch where tail-enders can prove difficult to dislodge, especially if James Anderson or Stuart Broad bat with him.
Michael Clarke’s tourists, meanwhile, are beaten men already, and some look to be playing for their Test futures. Former captain Ricky Ponting may preach faith in the youngsters, but talent looks to be in short supply.
If David Warner, for all his spectacular moments, has what it takes to match a Matthew Hayden or a Justin Langer then I’m an Eskimo.
Andy Lloyd is a former England Test cricketer who has also been captain and chairman of Warwickshire.