The term dead rubber is not one that is generally associated with Test cricket, let alone the Ashes.
There was a period in the 90?s while Australia were at their peaks under Mark Taylor, they would sometimes let a match slip here of there with a series already wrapped up.
Steve Waugh with his aggressive and competitive nature put an end to this mentality, prizing any Test victory as important as the last, as his fighting hundred in the final match of the 2001 series can attest to.
The roles have now been reversed, with England currently in an undefeated Ashes run that has stretched to six matches, starting on Boxing Day in 2010.
Despite the heightened popularity of the 20 over variety, five-day matches are still considered the pinnacle, and while no doubt Michael Clarke will be desperate to claim his first victory as captain against the old enemy, Alastair Cook is equally keen to whitewash the Aussies and complete a tour of utter domination.
“It would be very special to win the Ashes four nil. It’s never been done before and that’s our motivation as a side”, Cook told press in London.
“We’ve always said Australia are a good Test side, and they’ve proven that in this series. But at four nil you can achieve something very special”, he continued.
Apart from Ian Bell who has 500 runs at an average 71 from the series to date, England may feel as though their batsmen have under-performed, particularly Cook and Jonathan Trott, both of whom were rocks during the 2010-11 triumph down-under.
Neither have passed triple figures, while both have series averages in the mid 20’s, with the skipper keen to prove his worth as one of the world’s top batsmen.
“The best thing about this side is that we’ve yet to hit our straps at all times. I think there’s a lot to come from this side, which as a captain is very encouraging. Watching the training session now, you wouldn’t know we were three nil up”, he said.
On the other side of the Ashes equation, Australia are searching for their first test victory since defeating Sri Lanka in January, and vice-captain Brad Haddin believes his side are not too far away from the complete performance which has eluded during the Ashes.
“There’s a lot of belief in the change room that we can win this last Test match. England deserve to be where they are at three nil up, so it’s up to us to see if we can build on the good things we’ve done and put it all together over five days and not just in patches”, Haddin said.
“If we can put it together for five days, I think we can get a result to go our way, but it’s up to us. We seem to put ourselves in positions to win matches, but haven’t been good enough to get ourselves over the line”, he continued.
Australia will go into The Oval Test with a new look batting line-up, after James Faulkner was selected to make his debut in place of the out of touch Usman Khawaja.
The all-rounder has been selected to bat at seven, moving Haddin to six, and Shane Watson to first drop, while Faulkner’s inclusion will also add an extra option to the tourist’s bowling attack.
A solid outing at The Oval will hold the Tasmania in good stead to secure a position in the Australian XI when the return series commences in Brisbane in November.