In the build-up to the 5th Test, Alastair Cook was eager to stress his team's desire to win, despite having secured a series win in Durham.
However, on the first morning Cook announced that Chris Woakes and Simon Kerrigan would be making their Test debuts. Both Woakes and Kerrigan are talented cricketers who have impressed for their counties this season, Warwickshire and Lancashire respectively, but one suspects their selections are to give them experience at Test level and to allow the England backroom staff to scout for the future.
England have lacked a Test match all-rounder since Andrew Flintoff retired in 2009. Word is Woakes will bat at six in this Test, suggesting Andy Flower and Graham Gooch rate his batting enough to view him as a potential replacement for Flintoff somewhere down the line.
Woakes' bowling is more suited to the longer form of the game where his line and length is probing and a test of concentration. Woakes experienced some punishment in the ODIs at the start of the summer when the New Zealanders targeted his predictable length.
As for Kerrigan, he is the main benefactor from the Monty Panesar incident, being fast-tracked into the second spinner role as Panesar is disciplined for urinating on a bouncer. England are likely to take two spinners to Australia for the return series and are using the Oval Test to examine Kerrigan's credentials.
If the first day is anything to go by we might see Monty forgiven sooner than expected. It is all well and good saying spinners should not be judged until the second innings but when he is bowling shoulder high full tosses and three long hops an over there are bound to be grumbles. Looking even further ahead England might be eyeing up Kerrigan as a replacement for Graeme Swann who is 34 and has been pestered with injuries in the last year.
The experimental selections prove that England do see this final Test as a 'dead rubber' having already won the series. Would they have selected Kerrigan and Woakes if the series was tied? Absolutely not.
If England needed victory to win the Ashes then Steven Finn or Chris Tremlett would have replaced the injured Bresnan. As it is the giant duo of Finn and Tremlett are likely to be on the plane to Australia anyway given their height and style of bowling that lends itself to Australian conditions.
England may yet win this Test but they don't mind losing it if it means knowing more about their chances of retaining down under in three months time. In the greater scheme of things England might be right but there is plenty to be said for whipping all confidence out of Australia with a 4-0 thumping.
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