Twenty wickets on an Oval pitch? It could happen...

Strauss confident his side can 'cause trouble' on wicket known for producing draws

There is never a good time to "go" in the calf. But if all the statistics come home to roost and predictions of a belter prove spot on then a nasty niggle about an hour before start of play at The Oval today might not be such a bad thing. For a bowler, that is.

Yes, this is an Ashes decider – the biggest Test match in England since the little old urn was last at stake, at the same venue, four years ago. And nobody wants to miss it, which is why under-pressure players on both sides were busting a gut during yesterday's final practice session in an attempt to catch their captain's eye.

There are just too many bowlers to go around. For England, only four out of Graeme Swann, Monty Panesar, Stuart Broad, Ryan Sidebottom, Graham Onions, James Anderson and Steve Harmison can feature. For Australia, Stuart Clark, Nathan Hauritz and Brett Lee appear to be fighting over one place. But at some stage during the next few days, at least a couple of those who escape the cut may wonder whether playing in the great decider was such an honour after all.

There is a lot of nonsense talked about pitches and not many people can accurately predict just how 22 yards of land will behave over the course of one day, never mind five. So if this Test is done and dusted by Saturday tea-time then do not be too surprised. But the form guide does suggest spells of hard labour for bowlers of all kinds.

True, only three of the last 10 Tests in south London have been drawn. When it comes to county cricket at The Oval this season, though, an X on your coupon never goes amiss. All four first-class matches have ended in stalemate, the average first innings total is 441 and the most recent game, between Surrey and Leicestershire, a fortnight ago, saw more than 1,200 runs scored while only nine wickets were taken. Fancy a bowl, Harmy?

But, as everyone knows, there are lies, damned lies and... "It will be a typical Oval international wicket, a bit of pace and bounce and fair competition between bat and ball," insisted Surrey's operations director Clive Stephens.

"The stats over the last 10 Tests are that England have won five, lost two and drawn three. So the perception that it is a wicket set up to produce draws is a myth."

England need to win but they have not tried to influence the groundstaff. "They realise that what we do here is produce consistently good wickets, year in and year out," added Stephens.

Australia, of course, will not be too fussed if little progress is made and there are handshakes all round late on Monday afternoon with a D in the result column and an Ashes urn to cuddle. But Andrew Strauss is optimistic about the pitch. "I'm confident we can cause some real trouble on this pitch," said England's captain.

Arts and Entertainment
books
Voices
Caustic she may be, but Joan Rivers is a feminist hero, whether she likes it or not
voicesShe's an inspiration, whether she likes it or not, says Ellen E Jones
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Sport
Diego Costa
footballEverton 3 Chelsea 6: Diego Costa double has manager purring
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
techSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
Arts and Entertainment
The 'three chords and the truth gal' performing at the Cornbury Music Festival, Oxford, earlier this summer
music... so how did she become country music's hottest new star?
Life and Style
The spy mistress-general: A lecturer in nutritional therapy in her modern life, Heather Rosa favours a Byzantine look topped off with a squid and a schooner
fashionEurope's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln
News
Dr Alice Roberts in front of a
peopleAlice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
News
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Arts and Entertainment
Unsettling perspective: Iraq gave Turner a subject and a voice (stock photo)
booksBrian Turner's new book goes back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
News
The Digicub app, for young fans
advertisingNSPCC 'extremely concerned'
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Some of the key words and phrases to remember
booksA user's guide to weasel words
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor
She's dark, sarcastic, and bashes life in Nowheresville ... so how did Kacey Musgraves become country music's hottest new star?

Kacey Musgraves: Nashville's hottest new star

The singer has two Grammys for her first album under her belt and her celebrity fans include Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams and Katy Perry
American soldier-poet Brian Turner reveals the enduring turmoil that inspired his memoir

Soldier-poet Brian Turner on his new memoir

James Kidd meets the prize-winning writer, whose new memoir takes him back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
Aston Villa vs Hull match preview: Villa were not surprised that Ron Vlaar was a World Cup star

Villa were not surprised that Vlaar was a World Cup star

Andi Weimann reveals just how good his Dutch teammate really is
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef ekes out his holiday in Italy with divine, simple salads

Bill Granger's simple Italian salads

Our chef presents his own version of Italian dishes, taking in the flavours and produce that inspired him while he was in the country
The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

If supporters begin to close bank accounts, switch broadband suppliers or shun satellite sales, their voices will be heard. It’s time for revolution