England’s decision to hand Test debuts to both Chris Woakes and Simon Kerrigan at the Oval could have harsh consequences for the return Ashes series in Australia later this year.
With a comfortable 3-0 lead and the chance to make history as the first English side to record a 4-0 Ashes win, you would think that the home side would enter the final five-day contest of the summer with their best possible XI.
However, they have seen the fifth Test as an opportunity to introduce two young bowlers to the ultimate form of the game. There is no doubt that Woakes and Kerrigan have talent with the ball, but the timing of their international arrival is not the greatest.
The injury to Tim Bresnan and poor form of Johnny Bairstow made it acceptable for replacements to come in, but both Steven Finn and Chris Tremlett were chomping at the bit to have another go at the Aussies.
Instead, the two debutants were picked and had a tough baptism of fire on the opening day at the Oval. Spinner Kerrigan went for 28 off his first two overs in Test cricket and was wicket-less.
Meanwhile, Woakes’ only joy came when James Faulkner holed out to Jonathan Trott on the boundary, as the visitors looked to pile on the runs late in their innings.
Both Tremlett and Finn have the experience on the big stage to perhaps have chipped in with a few more wickets between them to curtail Australia’s free-scoring mood.
Momentum plays a key role in sport and the Aussies are starting to gain some in this Test. And, with the return Ashes series just months away, they have a lot to play for in south east London.
Following the threat that some middle-order batsmen are playing for the future of their international cricket careers, Shane Watson and Steve Smith duly hit centuries.
If they can continue that form through to November, then England are going to have a difficult task ahead to retain the urn. The last few matches have seen the touring side gain in confidence and threaten to win their first game of the summer.
Rain at Old Trafford and a batting collapse in Durham combined to prevent them from levelling the series, but England are going to run into trouble down under if they continue to play below their current best.
And for that they need their best possible line-up – something that they have not achieved at the Oval.
Time will tell just how costly England's team selection here will be, when they tour Australia this winter.
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