Ashes 2023: Fifth Test betting odds and talking points
England suffered Ashes 2023 agony at Emirates Old Trafford as their hopes of taking a memorable series to a winner-takes-all decider fell foul of the weather.
The closing day was abandoned without a ball being bowled, leaving a dominant home side unable to pick up the hunt for the last five Australian wickets.
That first draw of the ‘Bazball’ era guarantees the tourists will hold on to the urn, leading 2-1 with one more game to go, but there is still plenty at stake at the Kia Oval.
In the fifth Test betting odds, England remain the 5/4 favourites to level the series, Australia are 7/4 to come out on top and it’s 3/1 for another stalemate – with more adverse weather possible in London.
Coral’s David Stevens said: “Despite the disappointment of losing the Ashes after the washed-out Old Trafford Test, England were well on top in that fourth match, and we favour Ben Stokes’ side to repeat that dominance and at least deny the Aussies a series victory,”
Here we look at some of the key questions coming out of the frustrating finish in Manchester:
Why have Australia retained the Ashes?
To sum it up in a word: tradition. While England fans know all too well about one-day cricket’s tie-breakers – having needed a super over and a boundary countback to pip New Zealand to the 2019 World Cup – Test cricket has no problem with the draw.
When it comes to the format’s oldest rivalry, the holders must be beaten outright to lose their bragging rights.
Australia’s last trip to England ended with similar questions, as the tourists celebrated a 2-2 scoreline while England reflected on unfinished business.
Captain Ben Stokes was given the chance to question the custom after the fourth Test but waved it away without a second thought. In a Coral odds booster, Stokes is 5/2 from 7/4 to score a first-innings 50 this week.
Is there any way England could have forced a win at Old Trafford?
Having been criticised for declaring too early on the first day of the series at Edgbaston, Stokes now finds himself scrutinised for doing the direct opposite in the fourth Test.
Rather than calling his side in shortly after lunch on day three, he allowed Jonny Bairstow to continue flogging Australia’s bowlers in the afternoon session as he finished on 99 not out.
England finished with a first-innings lead of 275 but did not have enough time in the field to convert that into victory.
An earlier withdrawal would certainly have given them more time to collect 10 wickets, but a slimmer advantage means they would have probably needed to bat again.
Ultimately, their push was ruined by the rain, with only 30 overs out of a scheduled 180 allowed over the weekend. By scoring their runs at almost 5.5 an over and picking 15 wickets, England can hardly be accused of being ponderous with the time they had.
How can cricket stop important matches ending like this?
Assuming the holy grail of cricket grounds with a roof remains an expensive pipe dream, what else is there to do?
The World Test Championship final has been granted a reserve day since the International Cricket Council brought it in but the idea of rolling that idea out more broadly looks fanciful in the extreme.
Tours are getting shorter and more congested and the cost of booking holding venues and staff for an extra day that will rarely be used would be prohibitive, especially outside England.
More realistic is a push to improve over-rates. Financial sanctions have proved a hollow threat. More proactive umpiring, fewer stoppages and run penalties could all be looked at, while others suggest eating into the lunch and tea breaks.
The resistance to pulling start times forward from 11am to make up for lost time remains baffling.
What’s on the line at the Oval this week?
The last Australia side to win an Ashes series in England did so back in 2001, meaning the current class has a chance to do something a generation of their compatriots could not.
They snapped a long losing streak with a shared series four years ago and will be desperate to go one better now.
For England, there is a chance to keep up an undefeated streak under the Stokes-McCullum leadership regime and frustrate their rivals in the process.
A 3-1 loss would be a poor reflection on their efforts over recent weeks, so there is some work to do to deliver a more fitting result.
Why does it feel like the end of an era?
Because it is. Several of the key protagonists are well into the autumn of their careers and face uncertain futures. The next battle is not until the winter of 2025/26 and there are a host of veterans for whom that seems a long way away.
England’s record wicket-taker James Anderson turns 41 at the end of the month, Moeen Ali is sure to return to Test retirement in the coming days, while Stuart Broad (37), Chris Woakes (34) and Mark Wood (33) have plenty of miles on the clock.
As for Stokes, his body is creaking and the toll his injury problems are taking is not yet clear.
For Australia, David Warner has already set his own timetable for departure while it would be a surprise to see Steve Smith, Josh Hazlewood, Usman Khawaja, Mitchell Starc and Nathan Lyon on these shores again in 2027.
The Oval Test could be the last dance for both of these teams.
Punters can get 6/1 for Warner to be Australia’s top scorer in their first innings.
All odds and markets correct as of date of publication