David Warner set an unwanted record when he failed again on day two of the final Ashes Test, but Australia talisman Steve Smith was unbeaten at lunch after Jofra Archer's double strike at The Oval.

Mitchell Marsh (5-46) claimed a maiden five-wicket Test haul and Pat Cummins (3-84) dismissed Jos Buttler for 70 to bowl England out for 294 early on a sunny Friday in London.

The tourists, striving for a 3-1 series win after retaining the urn at Old Trafford, were in trouble on 14-2, with opener Warner and Marcus Harris falling to the excellent Archer.

Warner made only five to become the first opener to fall for eight single-digit scores in a Test series, but the prolific Smith (14 not out) and Marnus Labuschagne (32no) saw Australia through to 55-2 at the end of the morning session.

Buttler added only six runs to his overnight score before playing on to a delivery from the outstanding Cummins after England resumed on 271-8.

Jack Leach (21) also chopped to end the innings and give recalled all-rounder Marsh, who stated "most of Australia hates me" after taking four wickets on the opening day, his best Test figures.

Archer then steamed in to see the back of both of Australia's struggling openers, Warner given out caught behind following a review after Marais Erasmus did not detect an edge, and Harris (three) snicking to Ben Stokes at second slip.

Stuart Broad was also on the money with the new ball, but Labuschagne showed good judgement and scored boundaries on both sides of the wicket after weathering an early storm.

Smith played and missed to Archer on more than one occasion and Sam Curran probed with a touch of swing, but there was more than a sense of deja vu as fidgety former Australia captain Smith set himself ominously.

Mitchell Marsh claimed a maiden five-wicket Test haul as Australia bowled England out for 294 before David Warner failed again early in the morning session on day two of the final Ashes Test at The Oval.

Recalled all-rounder Marsh struck four times as England collapsed on the opening day and ended the innings on a sunny Friday, with Jack Leach playing on for 21.

Marsh, who stated "most of Australia hates me" after the close of play on Thursday, finished with Test-best figures of 5-46, while Pat Cummins (3-84) removed Jos Buttler for 70 after England resumed on 271-8.

Buttler also chopped on attempting to launch Cummins down the ground to fall, having struck three sixes and seven fours, with England striving to salvage a 2-2 draw after the tourists retained the urn at Old Trafford.

Warner's miserable run continued when he was given out caught behind flashing at Jofra Archer for only five, Joe Root successfully reviewing after umpire Marais Erasmus did not detect an edge.

Jos Buttler decided it was time to "take the shackles off and play with a smile on my face" as his counter-attacking knock raised England's spirits after a batting collapse on day one of the fifth Ashes Test.

Recalled Australia all-rounder Mitchell Marsh took 4-35 as England - attempting to salvage a 2-2 series result now they have no chance of regaining the urn - collapsed from 170-3 to 226-8 in a dramatic final session on a sunny Thursday at The Oval.

It looked as though it might be England's day with the tourists dropping Joe Root three times, but they crumbled after Pat Cummins bowled their captain for 57.

Buttler then switched into one-day mode to make an unbeaten 64, smashing Josh Hazlewood for three sixes with Jack Leach digging in at the other end to ensure England closed on 271-8 after being put in by Tim Paine.

The aggressive Buttler, who passed 7,000 runs international runs in all formats, has endured a disappointing series with the bat and felt it was time to take a more aggressive approach.

"It's nice to contribute a little bit. The boys batted really well in the morning and we got ourselves into a fantastic position but could not capitalise," Buttler told Test Match Special.

"Both sides are feeling a long series with a quick turnaround between Tests, so that's why the intensity goes up and down.

"Australia are a really good bowling attack and asked questions all day. It's frustrating for us not being able to capitalise on our start.

"With the new ball not being far away, I thought it was the best time to go for it and I was just trying to have some fun too.

"Batting has been hard work and not enjoyable this series so I wanted to take the shackles off and play with a smile on my face."

Mitchell Marsh admitted he was like a "kid at Christmas" ahead of day one at The Oval before taking advantage of his recall to put Australia on top in the fifth Ashes Test against England.

All-rounder Marsh, selected for his first appearance of the series ahead of vice-captain Travis Head, took 4-35 as England collapsed from 170-3 to 226-8 after tea.

Pat Cummins (2-73) and Josh Hazlewood (2-76) also did damage on the opening day after Tim Paine won the toss and opted to bowl as the tourists - who retained the urn by taking a 2-1 lead at Old Trafford last weekend - strive to secure a series win.

Joe Root was dropped three times before he was out for 57 and Jos Buttler smashed a counter-attacking unbeaten 64 to leave England on 271-8 at stumps on Thursday.

Marsh, able to return to the field after suffering cramp in the final session, revelled in his return to the Test arena.

"I probably haven't bowled a spell that long ever really. I was pretty fired up but unfortunately the sniper got me again!" Marsh, who had only previously taken four wickets once in a Test innings, told Sky Sports.

"I was like a kid at Christmas this morning, I was so excited. It can be a long tour if you're not playing, my goal has been to create as much energy as I can for this team when I'm not playing and I just wanted to get an opportunity at some stage and it was nice to chip in today.

"It probably could have been a lot less than 271-8 if we'd held our catches early on. We spoke about coming here and wanting to win 3-1, it probably didn't reflect on our first session. You drop catches sometimes and we'll take 271 on that.

"I swung the ball most of the day which helped with my control, I've been working in the background, making sure I was ready for it. I just wanted to come in today and take a few wickets.

"These guys have bowled so many overs, so I saw it as my role to help them out a little bit."

Recalled all-rounder Mitchell Marsh claimed four wickets as England collapsed before Jos Buttler made a counter-attacking unbeaten half-century to frustrate Australia on day one the final Ashes Test at The Oval.

England, attempting to salvage a 2-2 draw, were in a promising position on 170-3 after Tim Paine surprisingly asked them to bat first on a sunny Thursday in London.

Joe Root was dropped three times but England crumbled after the captain - who passed 7000 Test runs - was dismissed by the excellent Pat Cummins for 57, losing five wickets for 56 runs to slump to 226-8.

Marsh, playing his first match of the series at the expense of Travis Head, took 4-35, while the excellent Cummins and Josh Hazlewood claimed two wickets apiece to put the tourists on top as they eye a 3-1 victory.

Buttler (64 not out) then went on the attack - with support from Jack Leach - in a frantic final session, which England ended on 271-8 - having been 103-1 just after lunch.

A juggling Steve Smith caught Joe Denly (14) at the third attempt to end an opening stand of 27 - the highest of the series - and Cummins (2-73) should have had a second wicket when the recalled Peter Siddle put Root down on 24 at deep backward square-leg.

Root had just another run to his name when he was spilled by Paine after Cummins drew an edge and the skipper was on 30 when Smith dropped a tough chance diving to his right at second slip, Siddle the unfortunate bowler on that occasion.

England's premier batsman drove Hazlewood (2-76) for four to reach a notable personal milestone after lunch but Rory Burns tamely top-edged the same bowler to Marsh at mid-on, having struck seven boundaries in an otherwise assured knock.

Ben Stokes, playing as a specialist batsman due to a shoulder injury, gifted a first wicket to Marsh attempting to pull the all-rounder but ballooning to Nathan Lyon for 20 and there was no reprieve for Root when Cummins bowled him with a top-class delivery after tea.

Marsh trapped Jonny Bairstow (22) in front on the full with a yorker and seeing the back of Sam Curran, who hooked Cummins for six and could not take advantage of being called back after the paceman overstepped when he snared him lbw.

The impressive Marsh also removed Chris Woakes and Jofra Archer edged Hazlewood behind as England fell to pieces, but Buttler went into one-day mode with Leach digging in.

Buttler was struck by a short ball from Hazlewood before hitting the quick for three sixes - the third taking him to a half-century - and brought out the reverse sweep as Leach (10no) stood firm at the other end in an unbroken stand of 45.

 

MARSH MAKES HIS MARK, CUMMINS RELENTLESS

The probing Marsh and a relentless Cummins put Australia in the ascendancy with potent bursts early in the final session, the former generating swing and executing the yorker superbly as he took 3-17 in an eight-over spell after tea.

Marsh pulled up with cramp but was able to return after leaving the field, while the hostile Cummins was his usual outstanding self, charging in for 22.5 overs just four days after putting in such a big shift on the final day of the win in Manchester.

BUTTLER DELIVERS, LEACH MAKES CASE FOR THE DEFENCE

Buttler showed resilience with England battling to try and force a draw on a tense last day at Old Trafford, but played his natural game when he was in danger of running out of partners.

He clattered Hazlewood over the ropes down the ground twice and hooked him for another six to lift the spirits of England fans, while Leach was solid in defence in a frustrating end to the day for Australia.

MOMENT OF THE DAY

Cummins has been outstanding for the tourists throughout the series and conjured up another pearler to remove Root, who lost his off stump caught on the crease after being removed in similar fashion by the quick in the second innings of the fourth Test.

OPTA FACTS

- Marsh has four wickets in an innings for just the second time in his Test career, the other occasion coming when he took 4-61 against West Indies in December 2015.

- Buttler has moved past 7000 runs in all formats for England.

- Root has failed to convert any of his last nine Ashes half-centuries into a hundred.

Australia retained the Ashes on Sunday as a 185-run loss at Old Trafford dashed England's hopes of regaining the urn.

For the first time since 2002-03, Australia ensured the Ashes will remain in their grasp - Marnus Labuschagne and Josh Hazlewood dealing the final blows in a drawn-out defeat for the hosts.

While one Test remains for England to level the series, talk has already turned to where it all went wrong for Joe Root's side - Steve Smith's supreme batting aside.

The World Cup triumph, and even Ben Stokes' Headingley heroics, now seem distant memories, and here are three key areas England must address if they are to ensure this Ashes defeat does not derail their Test side for a long stretch.

TOP-ORDER TRIBULATIONS

An elephant in the room heading into the series was England's crippling lack of options at the top of the order. Jason Roy, impressive in England's World Cup campaign, was shoehorned in alongside Rory Burns, who - with high scores of 133, 53 and 81 - has proved his worth as an opener.

Roy has failed to do so, with the aggression which serves him well in one-day cricket proving his downfall in the longest form.

After making just 57 runs from the first three Tests, Roy shifted to four at Old Trafford, switching with Joe Denly, who showed his ability to adapt with an admirable display in the second innings. Roy made 22 and 31 and was bowled twice.

The question now is whether to stick or twist with one of Roy or Denly while Ollie Pope, who scored an unbeaten 221 for Surrey in August, could be reintroduced with the view to becoming Burns' long-term partner.

ROOT GAMBLE HAS NOT PAID OFF

Given the frailties at the top of England's batting order, it was decided captain Root would bite the bullet and move up from his preferred slot at four, coming in at three instead.

It is a risk which has failed to pay dividends, with Root having been dismissed for ducks in three of the four Tests so far.

Though he played captain's knocks at both Headingley and Old Trafford, after a decent 57 in the first Test, Root does not seem comfortable coming in at three, having had less time to rally himself - not to mention the dressing room - following what has typically been the loss of an early wicket.

TWO WICKETKEEPERS, TOO MUCH

A star of limited-overs cricket, Jos Buttler's ability with the bat cannot be called into question, but the Lancashire wicketkeeper had scored over 30 only once in the series prior to the fourth Test.

Buttler perked up with 41 and 34 at Old Trafford. His ability behind the stumps has not been called upon, with Jonny Bairstow handed the gloves for the series, and it has been an underwhelming series for the former Test vice-captain.

Yorkshireman Bairstow has also struggled with the bat - scoring a high of 52 in the first innings at Lord's.

Given England's issues higher up the order, now might be time for a more streamlined approach, and one - if not both - of the keepers may have to make way, especially with Ben Foakes waiting in the wings.

Josh Hazlewood struck the final blow as Australia beat battling England by 185 runs on a tense final day of the fourth Test at a raucous Old Trafford to retain the urn.

England resumed on Sunday in deep trouble on 18-2 and needing a highly improbable 383 to win, but more realistically to bat out for a draw which would give them the chance of a series victory with one match remaining at The Oval next week. 

The outstanding Pat Cummins (4-43) removed Jason Roy and Headingley hero Ben Stokes before lunch, but England had hope of saving the match when they were six wickets down at tea, with Joe Denly (53) one of only two men to depart in the afternoon session.

England continued to show resistance as Jos Buttler made 34 off 111 balls on his 29th birthday, while Craig Overton and Jack Leach also dug in with the backing of a packed crowd in Manchester.

Overton and Leach fended off 14 overs in a gritty ninth-wicket stand before part-time spinner Marnus Labuschagne got rid of his fellow tweaker - who soaked up 51 balls after being promoted above Stuart Broad - to silence a lively crowd.

After the clocked ticked into the final hour with 13.3 overs remaining, Hazlewood ended Overton's defiant knock of 21 off 105 deliveries to dismiss England for 197, sparking wild Australia celebrations as they avoided more final-day agony and took a 2-1 lead. 

 

Jos Buttler and Craig Overton continued to frustrate Australia's bid to polish off the final four wickets required to beat England in the fourth Test at Old Trafford and retain the Ashes.

Nathan Lyon ended the resistance of Joe Denly (53) and Mitchell Starc dismissed Jonny Bairstow on a tense Sunday afternoon in Manchester to leave England 166-6 at tea.

Buttler, on his 29th birthday, dug in for a gritty 30 from 96 balls and a battling Overton will resume after the break on 12, with England needing to bat out another 36 overs for a draw to keep the series alive with a new ball soon available.

The outstanding Pat Cummins (4-41) saw the back of Jason Roy (31) and Headingley hero Ben Stokes (one) before lunch after a frustrating start for the tourists on a good pitch.

Buttler and Overton - who successfully overturned a leg before decision - put on 28 and, more importantly, stayed together for 15.5 overs to give England some hope of pulling off another great escape a fortnight after an astonishing win in Leeds.

Roy got forward with conviction in the first hour and Denly - who switched places with his partner for this Test to open - also dug in after England resumed on 18-2.

A positive Roy hit Starc for four with a glorious cover drive, but was gone when Cummins removed his off stump with a brilliant delivery, which nipped back through the gate at the end of the 18th over of the day.

Stokes came out to a huge roar, but was soon heading back to the pavilion looking dejected after inside-edging a pumped-up Cummins behind, walking off without the finger being raised by umpire Marais Erasmus in a huge moment late in the morning session.

Denly had a second half-century in as many Tests when he punched Cummins down the ground to the boundary just after lunch, but fended Lyon to Marnus Labuschagne at short leg to become the spinner's first victim of the match.

Bairstow (25) and Buttler looked comfortable as they played with a mixture of attack and defence, but Starc ended a sixth-wicket stand of 45 by snaring the former leg before with the first ball after a drinks break.

Overton was given a reprieve after being given out lbw for five, with the third umpire taking a long time to overturn the decision despite the fact Cummins' delivery appeared to strike the paceman's bat before hitting his pad outside the line of off stump.

Australia closed in on a victory in the fourth Ashes Test that would ensure they retain the urn as Steve Smith again punished England, who were quickly reduced to 18-2 having been set 383 on day four.

Mitchell Starc, Smith and Pat Cummins each enjoyed their time in the spotlight on Saturday, with Australia reclaiming command of proceedings each time their hosts appeared to have been granted a glimmer of hope at Old Trafford.

Starc took 3-80 and excelled with the new ball as England, who resumed on 200-5, were dismissed for 301 in their first innings to concede a lead of 196.

The talismanic Smith - a double-centurion in Australia's first dig - then shone once more with the bat to stretch his side's advantage.

England reduced their opponents to 44-4 before Smith hit 82 off 92 balls - another wonderful innings yet incredibly his lowest score of the series to date - and Tim Paine declared on 186-6 in a bid to make swift progress against the fragile home top order.

Paine got what he wanted almost immediately as Cummins started with a double-wicket-maiden, dismissing Rory Burns and Joe Root. England duly stumbled through to stumps, three long sessions away from a draw that would keep the series alive - or, more unlikely still, requiring 365 to follow up their Headingley triumph with another stunning comeback victory.

In the morning session, England never truly recovered from the break up of the Burns-Root partnership on day three, with Starc getting movement out of the new ball to bowl Jonny Bairstow (17) before swiftly adding the big wicket of Ben Stokes (26).

Jos Buttler (41) was almost solely responsible for at least lifting England past the follow-on target of 298 before he fell to Cummins.

Australia then wobbled when batting again, with Stuart Broad continuing his domination of David Warner, trapping the opener for a third consecutive duck.

Broad kept the pressure on and got Marcus Harris (6) too, before Jofra Archer accounted for Marnus Labuschagne and Travis Head in a pacy spell.

However, Smith initially dug in and then came out firing after tea, surviving brief scares as he came close to dragging on and then almost fell to a stunning attempted catch from Stokes.

While other batsmen struggled for fluency, Smith was able to score freely with some increasingly expansive strokeplay. His attempts to lift the run-rate eventually gifted a wicket to Leach as Stokes was picked out at long-off.

Matthew Wade departed to a rejuvenated Archer, before Paine smashed a quick unbeaten 23 off 18 and then declared mid-over, teeing up Cummins to dish out some early damage.

Burns fell victim to the third ball when a leading edge looped to a sprawling Head at cover, while Root's defences were breached immediately by a gorgeous delivery that took off stump.

Jason Roy saw off the hat-trick ball and survived the remaining 6.2 overs alongside Joe Denly, but England's hopes of regaining the urn appear slim with a day to play.

 

STARC CONTRAST TO DAY THREE

Starc, recalled for this Test, is not always the most consistent of bowlers and struggled a little on Friday, ending the third day on figures of 0-41.

He proved his worth on day four with two huge early wickets in a new-ball spell. After bowling Bairstow through the gate with an inswinger, he tempted an edge from Stokes, who had scored 161 runs since his previous dismissal in the first innings at Headingley.

ARCHER BACK AT IT BUT SMITH SUPREME

Archer endured the first really tough innings of his international career earlier in this match, his figures of 0-97 including a gruelling spell bowling to Smith. The wicket of Labuschagne here came as a huge relief.

But that battle with Smith still provided Archer with little reward. Until his dismissal at the hands of Leach, the Australia star, a little like Stokes in Leeds, appeared to be in one-day mode as he blasted the ball around Old Trafford.

MOMENT OF THE DAY

England were already in big trouble after losing Burns in the first over of their second innings. Their hopes of salvaging a draw receded sharply when the next ball from Cummins beat Root all ends up to leave the hosts 0-2.

KEY OPTA FACTS

- Broad has got Warner six times in this series.
- Warner has had three ducks in a row. Prior to this run, he had never failed to score in successive Test innings.
- Broad has nine wickets from openers this series. Cummins has the next most on six.
- Smith has five successive Test half-centuries - his best such run.
- The Australia star has scored 293 runs in this Test match; his highest tally in a match.
- Having completed their highest successful run chase (359) at Headingley, England need to achieve the feat again to win this contest.
- Burns' duck was his first in Test cricket.

Ben Stokes' remarkable heroics at Headingley mean the Ashes series is all square at 1-1 with two to play.

But beyond what can reasonably be considered among the greatest Test innings of all time in one of the most remarkable finales in the history of cricket's longest format, there is plenty for England and Australia to consider.

The flaws of both teams have contributed to the undulating drama of this series every bit as much as individual brilliance on each side.

Before they reconvene at Old Trafford next week, here are some selection quandaries England and Australia must ponder.

ENGLAND

Roy's race is run

While Stokes has transferred his golden Cricket World Cup form to the Test format, the punt on white-ball specialist Jason Roy bringing his talents to bear at the top of the England order has failed to come off.

A best of 28 has been followed by four consecutive failures to reach double figures, with muddled footwork and a lost off stump making it seem cruel to ask Roy to keep on facing the new ball. Dropping into the middle order, with Joe Denly promoted to open, is one option, though a spell out of the side feels kinder right now.

Should England want to bring in a new face alongside Rory Burns, Warwickshire's Dominic Sibley is the leading option thanks to three centuries and four fifties in the County Championship this season.

Buttler best left out?

Over the course of three Tests, Jos Buttler has edged down from five to seven in the England order. A gutsy second-innings 31 at Lord's is his only effort to recommend among a string of single-figure scores, even if he could do little about being run out by Headingley hero Stokes.

Surrey's Ollie Pope thumped an unbeaten double century against Hampshire earlier this month and looks ripe for a recall to the middle order in place of either Roy or Buttler.

Bowling at the James Anderson End… James Anderson?

Chris Woakes has become increasingly peripheral with the ball and Australia have nullified his all-round capabilities with short-pitched assaults. The identity of England's third seamer looks likely to change at Old Trafford.

James Anderson would love to feature at his home ground but must do more to prove his fitness in an outing with Lancashire's second XI this week.

Sam Curran would provide left-arm variety and accomplished batting from number eight in the order, yet may once again miss out on selection.

 

AUSTRALIA

Smith in for who?

Steve Smith could return from his concussion-enforced absence and the tourists are not short of candidates to make way.

Usman Khawaja is without a half-century in the series and his airy 23 during the second innings at Headingley stood as a jarring counterpoint to Marnus Labuschagne's application.

Travis Head and Matthew Wade might also need to help their cause in this week's tour match at Derbyshire.

Starc in for who?

Mitchell Starc has been a spectator so far but could be drafted into the XI to bowl on an Old Trafford surface well-suited to his talents.

The left-arm paceman's relative inability to bowl "dry" means he is an uneasy fit with Australia's overall gameplan, but his expertise against the tail would have been a huge asset in Leeds.

Taking out any seamer involved in rolling England for a first-innings 67 would be harsh, but James Pattinson would appear the most vulnerable.

Marsh an option to bolster attack

For the first time in the series, Australia's four-man attack looked tired as they wilted in the Headingley heat.

The lack of top-six batsmen emphatically stating their case could open the door to Mitchell Marsh. The all-rounder hit two centuries in the last Ashes series in Australia and his right-arm seam would ease the load on a supreme but now-wounded bowling unit.

Ben Stokes reached his half-century as he and Jos Buttler nudged England along to 157-4 in a solid opening session for the hosts on day five of the second Ashes Test at Lord's.

On the ground where they helped England to Cricket World Cup glory against New Zealand last month, the duo dug in to stretch their fifth-wicket partnership to 86.

After a delayed started due to rain, England's batsmen rode their luck at times but escaped unscathed, in the process extending the lead to 165.

Steve Smith was absent from the field after the tourists confirmed he would play no further part in the contest due to a delayed concussion, Marnus Labuschagne cleared to replace the batsman for the remainder of the contest.

Stokes got England up and running with successive boundaries before Australia wasted a review when challenging an unsuccessful lbw appeal against the all-rounder.

David Warner was close to pouncing on a thick Stokes edge, which trickled down to third man for four runs.

Nathan Lyon (0-65) had Stokes prodding following that near-miss, but the Durham man stood firm, reaching 50 prior to the interval.

With Buttler (31 not out) keeping things steady at the other end, Lyon continued to test Stokes as lunch approached, though Australia could not find a breakthrough.

Joe Root will have to work out how long England will bat on before deciding if it is worth risking a declaration, with the early rain cutting it down to 88 overs in the day.

Joe Root baulked at the suggestion he is under less pressure to deliver an Ashes series win because of his part in England's Cricket World Cup victory.

England and Australia resume their famous rivalry at Edgbaston on Thursday, the first of five Tests in a packed seven-week schedule as the hosts aim to build upon their breathless triumph over New Zealand at Lord's with another memorable success in the longest format.

Root was England's leading runs scorer as Eoin Morgan's men lifted the trophy, comfortably dispatching Australia in the semi-finals en route to glory.

But the 28-year-old is captain once again for Test duties, as he was when Australia took back possession of the urn with a 4-0 win on home soil 18 months ago.

"I think if you speak to anyone that's captained England and is on the verge of an Ashes series… to say that it doesn't mean as much as any other event, I don't think any of them would agree. It's huge," Root, who will step up again to the crucial number three position in England's brittle top order, told a pre-match news conference.

"Cricket in this country is at an all-time high and probably has interest it's not had for a long time. We've got an opportunity as a team to make this summer a very memorable one."

It is a joust limited-overs specialist Morgan will watch from afar.

Root spoke warmly of the Irishman's influence on his leadership of the Test team as he seeks to plot a similarly defining triumph.

"I'm sure he's still celebrating somewhere, to be honest," Root grinned. "He's obviously desperate for us to do well.

"He's been great with me in terms of helping me find my feet as a captain and someone I will always will look up to.

"He's a great man and a great leader. He'll be as supportive as anyone watching on from wherever he is – hopefully with a glass of red somewhere."

Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes return to the England side after sitting out last week's topsy-turvy Test win over Ireland – the duo prescribed rest after showing nerves of steel to guide England towards and through the super-over finale versus New Zealand.

"When you look back at that final and everything that it threw at the group who played in it, those are experiences you can hold with you for ever," Root said, acknowledging the lingering benefit such exploits could have over the coming weeks.

"For people like Jos and Ben, who spent a long period out there under pressure, it must make you think differently and it'll be interesting to see that unfold throughout this series.

"It can only be positive to have two senior players perform for a long period of time under the biggest scrutiny and pressure in the white-ball format.

"They've got a chance now to take that into the red-ball stuff and into this series."

England and Australia will spend the next seven weeks as fierce rivals with the Ashes on the line.

The return from suspension of three Australia star batsmen means the visitors are back up to full strength as they chase a first Test series win in England for 18 years.

The triumphant 2001 side was loaded with all-time greats including Steve and Mark Waugh, Shane Warne, Ricky Ponting, Glenn McGrath and Adam Gilchrist.

Few of the England team of the day would have earned a place in Australia's side, such was the absurd strength of the tourists' squad.

However, the gap has closed considerably in the years since, and merging the teams for a combined Ashes XI in 2019 would test the judgment of any selector.

Here is a look at how such a team might look, with grovelling apologies to the strong contenders who missed the cut.


Cameron Bancroft (Australia)

Edgbaston will have a welcome waiting for the man who used sandpaper to tamper with the ball during Australia's Test with South Africa at Newlands last year. Bancroft has the runs for Durham this year to justify his return to Australia's ranks on form, even if many might feel uneasy about his presence after serving a nine-month ban. It could be touch and go whether he opens or bats in the middle order, but he gets the nod for this XI on the basis of England being in an opener crisis.

David Warner (Australia)

The brains behind the Newlands plot is also back in the Test arena. Warner is a mighty batsman, and nobody would question his ability. He comes into the Ashes off a fine World Cup performance, and his wicket will be a prized one within the England ranks. Described in one newspaper verdict of sandpapergate as "the most hated man in cricket", Warner is the man the home crowds would love to see fail, even if privately they would happily have him on their side.

Steve Smith (Australia)

Culled as captain, and banned along with Warner for a year, Smith did nothing to prevent Bancroft and Warner's actions and he will be braced for a barrage of flak during the Ashes. He has the batting chops and the temperament to handle sledging from the stands, however. Smith is the finest middle-order batsman of his generation, a rock of Australia's team and, past mistakes notwithstanding, a de facto leader.

Joe Root (England, captain)

If questions are asked of England's batting line-up, England's skipper usually finds an answer. He may need to provide the glue to bond together several unstable innings over the coming weeks, and there are few more accomplished anchor batsmen in world cricket. His team are the bookmakers' favourites to take the urn, with Root's contribution expected to be pivotal.

Jonny Bairstow (England)

A galvanising force behind England's glorious World Cup campaign, Bairstow has produced worrisome form in the longest format and went for a pair against Ireland. He averages 25.83 in 10 Tests over the past 12 months, dragging down his overall batting average. The Ashes might bring the best out of the Yorkshireman.

Ben Stokes (England)

Stokes will hope to enjoy August 2019 more than August 2018, when he faced the stress of a crown court trial on a charge of affray. Stokes cleared his name and has moved on, reinstated for the Ashes as England's vice-captain and hailed a national hero after his World Cup exploits. Many have crumbled in the face of comparisons to Ian Botham but Stokes thrives on the all-rounder role and could far surpass Beefy's achievements before his career is out. A man who seems made for an Ashes series.

Jos Buttler (England, wicketkeeper)

Tim Paine captains Australia, as well as keeping wicket, because in both senses he is considered a safe pair of hands. But Buttler gets the stumps role here, his explosive batting a tremendous complement to his skill with the gloves. Buttler has come on as a Test cricketer in the last year, as well as being a key component of the white-ball team that many expect him to captain before long. He gives back the Test vice-captaincy to Stokes for this series, but is unlikely to mind.

Pat Cummins (Australia)

Rated by the ICC as the world's number one bowler, Cummins has taken wickets at a prolific rate over the past couple of years. He would earn his place on that basis alone, but Cummins can bat too and made three scores in the forties in the last Ashes series. Years of injury woe are behind him, with the tall paceman capable of wreaking havoc in this series.

Jofra Archer (England)

Here's the wild card. Archer is launching his Test career in the Ashes but has already demonstrated he is a swimmer when tossed in at the deep end. The Barbados-born fast bowler enjoyed a terrific World Cup, defying a painful side strain to emerge as a star of the tournament. The 24-year-old looks like the man England have been waiting for, as the established Anderson-Broad axis enters its twilight days. He should thrive, and play in many of these series.

Nathan Lyon (Australia)

England have worries in the spin department when it comes to Tests, with neither Moeen Ali nor Adil Rashid establishing themselves as reliable wicket-taking slow bowlers at this level. Lyon's average is comfortably better than both England men, and with 86 Tests behind him the one-time Adelaide Oval groundsman has come a long way in the game. He has pouched 343 Test wickets and, regardless of conditions that should favour the seamers, will fancy taking more victims on this tour. A shoo-in for an Ashes dream team.

James Anderson (England)

This will be an Ashes farewell, surely, for Anderson. Few would doubt his capacity to go out in style, with the 37-year-old bidding to add to 575 Test wickets, 104 of which have accounted for Australians. He has succeeded McGrath as the preeminent paceman in the ongoing story of the Ashes, with few seamers capable of matching the craft of the man from Burnley. A late-summer Ashes, after the British heatwave, with plenty of cloud cover likely, could have been designed for Anderson.

England's triumphant squad have received plenty of praise since lifting the Cricket World Cup - and now they have been honoured with a one-of-a-kind championship belt from an unlikely fan.

As a 14-time champion, WWE superstar Triple H knows a thing or two about winning in big situations. And the man with a finishing move called the 'Pedigree' was certainly impressed with the standards shown by Eoin Morgan's side against New Zealand on Sunday, when the tournament hosts prevailed following a dramatic Super Over at the home of cricket.

The wrestler, whose real name is Paul Levesque, tweeted out a message of congratulations to the new ODI champions, along with a picture of a customised world heavyweight championship belt made to mark their success.

"An incredible tournament, an awe-inspiring final, and a team of worthy champions. Congratulations to England Cricket for winning the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup 2019! This custom WWE Championship is YOURS!" Triple H wrote.

The unique strap includes the words "World Cup champions", with the England and Wales Cricket Board's official logo appearing twice, placed either side of the central WWE badge.

However, the generous gift to mark England's achievement does create a problem - who gets to keep it?

Jos Buttler, who was in partnership with Ben Stokes in the middle during England's Super Over, had an on-topic suggestion to decide the owner, tweeting: "Royal rumble lads last man standing keeps the belt?" 

If Buttler's idea comes to fruition, Morgan and his team-mates would have to forget about boundary ropes and focus on the top rope instead. Perhaps Triple H could make an appearance during the upcoming Ashes series against Australia to crown England's new wrestling champion, too.

The Game at a game of cricket? We can only hope...

Jason Roy is set to make his Test debut for England against Ireland, putting him in line for an Ashes call-up next month.

Star batsman Roy is yet to feature in the longest format at international level but was vital to hosts England's Cricket World Cup triumph.

His form in that tournament has earned him a first shot at Test cricket, selected among 13 players to face Ireland in a four-day contest at Lord's with Olly Stone and Lewis Gregory the other uncapped men to earn a spot.

The trio are also included in a 16-man group for a pre-Ashes camp.

There is good news for England, too, with James Anderson's inclusion in the squad, the experienced bowler having recovered from a calf tear.

However, Jofra Archer, another waiting for a Test bow, and Mark Wood are both suffering with side strains.

Wood is set for four to six weeks out while Archer will have a period of rest and return from Barbados later this month, with national selector Ed Smith stating the latter will be out "for a while".

Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler - stars of the World Cup success - have also been granted leave until the pre-Ashes camp ahead of the August 1 opener.

The four-day clash with Ireland begins on July 24.

 

England squad in full for Ireland Test: Joe Root, Moeen Ali, James Anderson, Jonny Bairstow, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Sam Curran, Joe Denly, Lewis Gregory, Jack Leach, Jason Roy, Olly Stone, Chris Woakes.

England squad in full for pre-Ashes camp: Moeen Ali, James Anderson, Jonny Bairstow, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Sam Curran, Joe Denly, Lewis Gregory, Jack Leach, Joe Root, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes, Olly Stone, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood.

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