It would appear that the Australian test cricket team prefer playing in London rather than in other cities during the current 2015 Ashes series against England. Their only victory in four previous tests occurred at Lords close to the centre of the Capital as a good fast wicket and plenty of warm sunshine suited their style of play rather than the relatively overcast skies and movement off the wickets in both the Nottingham Trent Bridge ground and at Birmingham Edgbaston. With England leading the series 3-1 approaching the final test at London’s Oval, the Aussie were hoping for similar conditions to Lords and as their dominant display over the first two days testified, their wishes were granted with a wicket offering less swing and movement off the seam.
On a first day when it was slow progress for the Australian batsmen and when edges to slips did not fully carry to the willing catchers, the tourists compiled a score of 287-3 with Steve Smith unbeaten on 78. The batsmen played with the discipline lacking in previous test by leaving the wider deliveries as the England bowlers experienced a frustrating day.
In warmer weather on the Friday, the Australians had amassed 376-7 at lunch with the bowlers offering far too many scoring opportunities for their opponents. Smith was finally bowled by Steven Finn for 143 to add to his double century at Lords but then Mitchell Starc decided to attack and scored 58 runs from 52 balls before being dismissed, an innings which prolonged the English agony. An Aussie final total of 481 was a challenging target for Alastair Cook’s team with doubts already arising regarding their attitude for the test match with the Ashes already secured.
Both Cook and Adam Lythe began the reply with reasonable confidence but it was a surprise when Nathan Lyon was introduced into the attack after just six overs. The tactic was rewarded when he bowled Cook for 22 as the teams entered tea with the hosts 30-1. What followed would be painful watching afterwards for the English batsmen.
Peter Siddle, who was playing in his first test match of the series, dismissed Lythe although the Yorkshire batsman could be accused of playing a poor shot at an equally mediocre delivery. As the England innings progressed further, loose strokes from Jonny Bairstow and Ben Stokes were to prove costly as England finished the day at 107-8 with the Australian bowlers producing deliveries of pace and with bounce which unsettled the hosts.
There could have been further wickets for both teams after no-balls, which failed to be noticed by the umpires, offered departing batsmen another chance at the wicket. Yet Saturday is expected to be another warm day in London and there must be a reasonable chance that the Australians will gain a consolation victory by close of play with the English batsmen now seemingly resigned to losing this test match but with their ultimate target already achieved.