If there’s one thing you can count on during England’s hosting of the Ashes, it’s a bit of rain. Despite an uncharacteristic heat shining through most of the series, the clouds have rolled in on the fifth Test, slowing down the chance of a definitive result.
England currently lead the series 3-0 after four Tests. Although Australia cannot regain the tiny urn, Michael Clarke’s men will be determined to ensure the hosts are given a last-minute beating on home soil. While a whitewash isn’t on the cards for England, the Aussies need to secure a victory in order to regain confidence for the upcoming home series between Nov. 21, 2013 and Jan. 7, 2014.
How will the weather affect both team’s chances? Which players will become pivotal should the rain continue to interrupt play? Let’s take a look.
Shane Watson, Australia
One hugely disappointing aspect of this Ashes series has been Shane Watson’s inability to perform at the right time. The 32-year-old has been largely poor throughout his time at the crease, often planting his front foot and letting the LBW call inevitably ruin his day. With the Ashes lost until the winter, it must be hugely frustrating to see he has finally come into prolific form.
As already shown during the fifth Test, Watson is more than capable of munching through England’s new-look attack. Chris Woakes and Simon Kerrigan, who were both handed their debuts at The Oval, will be sick of seeing Watson easily swat their every ball away for runs. He racked up 176 in 247 balls before being bowled by Stuart Broad in the first innings, but Watson’s aggressive approach signals what lies ahead.
Should the rain start to fall once more, the right-handed batsman underlines himself as Australia’s most potent weapon. Clarke may be faced with an opportunity to declare again as the fifth Test rolls on, but Watson’s ability to thwack balls towards the boundary will play a big part in whether or not Australia have the score to do so.
Graeme Swann, England
Swann has performed well this series, but Alastair Cook might give him one last duty to help England see the series out without a loss. If Australia continue to roll on, it would be wise for the hosts to slow proceedings down with an extensive run of spin bowling.
Should the weather become hotter, as forecast here by MyWeather2.com, the pitch will become suited to Swann's best traits. His ability to turn the ball will come into effect, giving England the chance to wipe away the final Australian batting order without any trouble.
Ryan Harris, Australia
Arguably the most consistent performer throughout the series for the Baggy Greens, Ryan Harris has done himself no harm with excellent displays throughout the Ashes. His stunning seven-wicket haul put Australia on the brink of victory in the fourth Test, but he once again came out on the losing side.
As noted by Adam Gilchrist in his ESPNcricinfo column, it’s important Harris is utilised throughout the fifth Test:
Whether he's opening up with a new-ball spell, backing up late in the day for his 22nd over, or being part of a social function and trying to develop a sense of collective spirit, he's very aware of what being a team member is about.
I've never seen him shy away from those requirements, whether written or unwritten. A particularly important quality is the amount of interest he shows in his team-mates. He's always been prepared to listen rather than be the dominant voice in the room, and that sort of humility helps enormously in creating a closeness among those around him.
Harris continues to show fierce aggressiveness when ploughing through England's most talented batsmen. At 33 years of age, Harris' continued form suggests he has never reached his true potential in Ashes cricket, but that's something that could happen when the next series arrives.
If his body holds up for the return series, England will have something fearsome to consider when they head to Australia.