Steve Smith has been the key difference for Australia as they aim to win an Ashes series in England for the first time since 2001. (Image credit: Getty Images)
Steve Smith's twin centuries in Edgbaston helped Australia breach England's fortress after 18 years. At Old Trafford, his 211 and 82 were the highest by a player from both sides. In both instances, Smith's knock defined the series for Australia. When he did not play in Leeds, it was Ben Stokes who stole the thunder with a once-in-a-lifetime innings as England won by one wicket. Smith has played consistently throughout the series and his efforts have ensured Australia have retained the Urn in England for the first time since 2001. Now, Smith has one more task and it will be for Australia to win a series in England for the first time since Steve Waugh, who is currently mentoring the side, achieved it.
The exploits of Smith have whitewashed the weakness of the other Australian players, who have struggled. David Warner has been dismissed for a duck three times and has unable to get the better of Stuart Broad. Usman Khawaja and Marcus Harris has also struggled and had it not been for Marnus Labuschagne's consistency in the middle order, Australia would have been in bigger trouble.
Apart from Smith, the duo of Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood have been the major driving force in Australia's improved showing in England. Bowling with discipline and not giving away easy runs for three out of the four Tests has reaped rich dividends, with Cummins and Hazlewood both topping the wicket charts. At The Oval, the speculation could be that Cummins could be rested and that either of Peter Siddle or James Pattinson might get into the side. With The Oval wicket dry and assisting reverse swing, Pattinson could get the nod due to his pace and ability to reverse swing the old ball.
For England, they can only hope to draw the series and avoid a series loss at home for the first time since 2012. Apart from Ben Stokes, the top order has been fragile and it continues their trend ever since the 2017/18 Ashes where most of the top order, including skipper Joe Root has struggled for consistency.
Even among the bowlers, barring Jofra Archer and Stuart Broad, their consistency has been found wanting. Jason Roy has been unable to repeat his form in the limited overs circuit while Jonny Bairstow and Jos Buttler have really struggled lower down the order.
Australia will be hoping that the likes of Warner and Khawaja strike form while Australia might be tempted to make some changes in the bowling with Cummins getting a well-earned rest. England could get in Sam Curran to boost the lower middle order.
In the five Ashes encounters at The Oval since the start of the 21st century, Australia has won two and lost one game with the other two games ending in a draw. Smith has an exceptional record at this venue, smashing two tons in three innings. England, on the other hand, have not lost a series at home since 2012 and they will be gunning to keep their home record intact.
Pitch and Weather Conditions
The pitch at The Oval is traditionally a flat and rough deck with spinners and pacers getting good assistance. The weather at The Oval is fine and chances of rain are minimal.