Australia chase series win as Bayliss departs – 5 final Test talking points

By Rory Dollard, PA Cricket Correspondent
PA Media: Sport

The fifth Ashes Test represents the final international of a memorable summer of English cricket.

Here, the PA news agency looks at some of the key areas for debate.

How do England solve a problem like Smith?

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There is no obvious reason why the hosts would suddenly have an answer to this question, and it is increasingly unclear whether a satisfactory solution even exists. After watching Steve Smith pile up 671 runs in five innings over the course of 998 deliveries, Joe Root’s approach will be interesting. Will the skipper look to go ‘funky’ as he searches for the breakthrough or will he stick to the basics and hope for a slice of luck?

Curran-cy exchange

Sam Curran gets his chance on his home ground (Bradley Collyer/PA)
Sam Curran gets his chance on his home ground (Bradley Collyer/PA)

One of the curious factors of the series is the complete absence of Sam Curran, the Surrey all-rounder who was named man-of-the-series against India last year. He is an effervescent character, able to influence matches with bat and ball and yet only owes his selection this week to Ben Stokes’ shoulder injury. With Stokes unlikely to bowl much his allocation will transfer to the 21-year-old, who can show England what they have been missing.

Bye bye Bayliss

Trevor Bayliss will leave his role after the Oval Test (Bradley Collyer/PA)
Trevor Bayliss will leave his role after the Oval Test (Bradley Collyer/PA)

The match represents the end of Trevor Bayliss’ four-year reign as head coach and takes place at the site of England’s World Cup celebration party. That trophy represents a proud pinnacle of the 56-year-old’s tenure and he has earned a send off. He readily admits England’s Test cricket has not improved at the same dizzy rate as their white-ball side but bowing out with a victory would allow him to enjoy one last celebration and finish in credit on the win-loss ratio. Currently he has overseen 26 wins, 25 losses and seven draws.

Time for big runs

Jos Buttler is one England batsman who needs to find form (Mike Egerton/PA)
Jos Buttler is one England batsman who needs to find form (Mike Egerton/PA)

England produced their top score of the series, 374, in the first innings of the first Test. Since then their have failed to threaten a 400-plus total, while in terms of individual centuries only Ben Stokes (twice) and Rory Burns (once) have crossed the line. On a pitch renowned as the arguably the truest on the circuit, that must change. England have to show they can bat big to set up the game, with captain Root leading the pack of players who could do with a three-figure score. Joe Denly, Jonny Bairstow and Jos Buttler are not far behind.

Australia look to buck the trend

Adam Gilchrist (left) and Ricky Ponting (second right) were in the last Australia side to win the Ashes in England (Gareth Copley/PA)
Adam Gilchrist (left) and Ricky Ponting (second right) were in the last Australia side to win the Ashes in England (Gareth Copley/PA)

Ever since the memorable 2005 Ashes, home advantage has been a decisive factor in the final outcome. The away team has only prevailed once in the past nine series – Andrew Strauss’ men triumphant Down Under in 2010/11. Australia have to look to the class of 2001 for the last time they lifted the urn behind enemy lines and breaking that sequence is a major goal.

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