Ashes Fifth Test: Preview and Betting Guide

So it's the final test in what's been a very satisfying Ashes tournament for both England fans and neutrals, but less so for the Australians staying glued to their TV screens all night hoping for a miracle. With England 3-1 up in the best-of-five series, the overall victor might be decided, but there's still plenty to play for. We look at the best value you can find both pre-match and in-play in Thursday's Ashes 2015 fifth test at The Oval.

Match Preview

It's a truism of English sport that its teams are much better at chasing titles than defending them. If you look at the mess made of England's rugby union team after that World Cup triumph of 2003, or the way the 2005 and 2013 Ashes-winners faltered when defending the title in Australia, you can see that there is a pattern at work.

So much energy is expended on proving people wrong, and the English mentality just doesn't adjust well to a position of strength. Add to that the Australian tendency to be tenacious in ironing out any flaws in its national teams, and you have an idea of why England title defences have often failed at the first hurdle.

Some critics of Alastair Cook, such as Piers Morgan, for example, have been forced to eat their words after the England captain guided his team of honest tryhards to the series win. However, where does he go from here? England captains, like politicians, tend to leave the post in failure, but Cook has a chance to sign off after the Ashes with his reputation as a winner restored. Will he do it? It seems unlikely.

One player who is retiring from the captaincy after a final test match is Michael Clarke, who must have thought he had a good chance of taking Australia's first Ashes in England since 2001, and whose team, following in the wake of his disappointing batting form, has disappointed.

Chris Rogers will also retire, but from cricket altogether, after the Ashes, feeling he has nothing more to achieve. His late flowering as a test batsman, with most of his matches coming after the age of 35, has showed that cricket is a game of the mind as much as the body - but he has been a fine servant for Australia, and will be keen to sign out with a century and a win for the team.

England picks an unchanged side for the fifth test, with the possible exception of James Anderson coming back in for Mark Wood - its selectors, for the past 15 years, have believed in stability after victory. Australia has questions mainly over Clarke's place in the batting order, but will probably give the same set of players a chance to redress the balance of the series so far.

Prediction and Top Bets

England is the team in-form, the players have the lift of knowing the Ashes are already won, but at the end of a bruising test series, Australia will be a wounded animal looking to strike back. We believe England will win, but it will not be the cakewalk of the fourth test, and there will almost certainly be no Australia batting innings ending after 60 runs.

England 23/17 with Unibet to win the fifth test

Adam Lyth 13/2 with Paddy Power to be England's top batsman - because the pressure's off, and this is probably his last chance as an international opener

Mitchell Starc 13/5 with Bet365 to be top Australia bowler