A chance to make history,albeit of different sorts,will confront England and Australia when the final Test of this season’s Ashes starts at The Oval in south London tomorrow.
At 3-0 up with one to play,England have already retained the Ashes and won the series — the first time since the 1950s they’ve won three successive Test campaigns against their oldest rivals.
But they still have plenty to play as they’ve never won four Tests against Australia in England and have never taken any Ashes series by a 4-0 margin although they did win 4-1 in Australia in 1911/12 and in 1928/29 before taking a six-match series against an Australia side weakened by defections to the unofficial World Series Cricket 5-1 in 1978/79.
A result of greater resonance to both current sides is that the last England team to win the Ashes and round off the series with a defeat was Mike Gatting’s side at Sydney in 1987.
Following a narrow victory,Australia won the next eight Ashes series.
The last thing England batsman Jonathan Trott wants is for his captain,Alastair Cook,to receive the Ashes urn on the back of a loss.
“I don’t think anyone wants to go up on the stage and raise the urn after we have lost,” Trott said. “If we do that,it will be a bit of a downer.”
Unusually,Australia will have a chance for revenge in a matter of a few months,with the return Ashes ‘Down Under’ starting in November.
“There are another five games (against Australia) after this one so we are not letting up,” Trott said. “That is an important message to send. If we take our foot off,you give them hope and they can go back to Australia having won a Test,” added Trott,who marked his Test debut by making a hundred against Australia at The Oval in the concluding Ashes Test of 2009 where victory saw England regain the urn.
England have been forced into making a change after Tim Bresnan,who starred with both bat and ball in the 74-run fourth Test win at Chester-le-Street was ruled out of the rest of the season with a back injury.
Fast bowler Chris Tremlett,looking to revive his Test career on his Surrey home ground,is one of three players along with the uncapped duo of all-rounder Chris Woakes and left-arm spinner Simon Kerrigan looking to take Bresnan’s spot.
Australia,who’ve used eight batsmen in a series where the top order has been their Achilles heel,could once again make changes despite being urged to ‘pick and stick’ by the likes of former captain Steve Waugh,who didn’t score a hundred until his 26th Test before becoming a world-class batsman.
Usman Khawaja,averaging just 19 in three successive Tests,appears to be the batsman under greatest pressure right now after coach Darren Lehmann warned his top six they were playing for their places following Australia’s latest collapse at Chester-le-Street and there have been suggestions reserve wicketkeeper Matthew Wade could come into the side as a specialist batsman.
Australia have lost seven of their last eight Tests,a losing streak interrupted by a rain-affected draw at Old Trafford.
However,vice-captain Brad Haddin insisted a side led by world-class batsman Michael Clarke could avoid becoming the first Australia team since Greg Chappell’s side lost 3-0 in England in 1977 to go through an Ashes series without winning a Test.
“There’s a lot of belief in the changing room that we can win this last Test,” wicketkeeper Haddin said.
“We’ve been in a position over the Tests to put ourselves in a position to win,we just haven’t been good enough in the big moments.
“We’ve shown glimmers of where we can be as a team,but we haven’t done it for long enough.
“To get ourselves in a position that we did at Durham and then finish the way we did,it takes a lot out of you,” Haddin admitted.
“But Test cricket’s not meant to be easy…The series has gone,and we’ve just got to see what we’re made of.”