As the Fifth Ashes Test moves to London, England will look to deny Australia a rare series victory at The Oval.
After weather put pay to their chances of regaining the urn, the hosts will be in no mood to roll over – if the elements play ball.
The tourists have not won an Ashes series away from home outright since 2001.
Will a weary-looking Baggy Greens take full bragging rights or can a deflated England level the series?
Ashes hopes doused
It was all going so swimmingly in the Fourth Test at Old Trafford – before Manchester then did turn into an impromptu outdoor pool.
Having won the toss and putting Australia in to bat, England had fortune in their own hands.
Building a lead in excess of 200 runs after registering their first 500 this summer, the hosts seemed in control.
As Day 3 began, Bazball was in top gear; Jonny Bairstow was electrifying; Australia were visibly labouring.
However, in the distance lurked the sword of Damocles that is the British summer weather.
Clamours for a declaration might have been heard earlier, but in truth, on a pitch that was still largely lifeless, Australia were happy to block – even at five down.
When Marnus Labuschagne was dismissed to bring about Tea on Saturday, the extra hour proved academic as the predicted weather closed in.
As Sunday arrived, a blanket of rain proceeded to park itself over Manchester.
It was game over – the Ashes would stay Down Under.
Hosts can play spoilers
After outplaying the opposition last time out and now only able to draw the series at best, a doubtless deflated England will need some lifting
However, winning the final Test will be the least the hosts feel they deserve.
In 2019, England traveled to the capital with a 2-1 deficit knowing the Ashes were out of reach; the story is the same four years on.
As the absent Jofra Archer dismantled Australia, England won out by 155 runs.
The Aussies, now with the urn firmly tucked into their travel cases, will not lack motivation either.
With the chance of a first away series victory in 22 years, the tourists could yet stick the knife in.
Anderson quandary; tourists could rotate
For England, the big question ahead of Thursday is: will James Anderson play?
Having struggled this summer, the veteran is far from a certain pick for the finale.
However, in likely his final Ashes appearance, can England’s selectors deny arguably their greatest ever bowler a fitting send-off?
Anderson, who turns 41 on Sunday has just four wicket this series.
Yet, a huge part of four victorious sides – including the 2011/12 crop who won in Australia – the first in 24 years – can Jimmy really be left out?
If Anderson is omitted, the decision then is whether to bring back Josh Tongue, with Ollie Robinson the extra option, if passed fit.
The former, posted season-best figures of 5-29 last week against Leicestershire.
Moeen Ali looks set to continue at no.3 after a sterling showing in Manchester.
In the case of the Aussies, retaining the urn has done little to disguise a side who are out of juice.
— Cricket Australia (@CricketAus) July 23, 2023
That comes with little surprise.
Come Monday evening, the World Test champions will have played six almost back-to-back games in the space of less than two months.
Mitch Marsh and Mitchell Starc are Australia’s two main injury concerns.
Reports suggest the impressive Marsh could be used as a specialist batter only.
That would leave only four bowlers in the line-up.
If Todd Murphy is recalled – as expected – Cameron Green’s void in the batting department could still leave the tourists short.
Murphy, however, looks a sure thing on an Oval pitch which has often turned later in the piece.
England marginal to level
So where do the bookies see the finale heading?
England have won three of the last five traditional end-of-series meetings at the Oval, with Australia victorious just once since 2001.
The markets lean toward that statistic.
England are 11/8 with William Hill to end the summer all-square, with the tourists 17/10 with BetUK.
If, meanwhile, punters foresee another weather-dominated Test – even if not – the draw at 29/10 with BetVictor is the alternative choice.