Throughout this series, sans the third Test, there hasn’t really been a dull moment. If not for a wash-out on the fifth day at Trent Bridge, the first Test had also spiced up well for the fifth day. The following match at the Lord’s showed why Test cricket is still the pinnacle. This match, at The Oval, as well is in perfect balance, probably a bit tilted towards India because of the huge task ahead for the English team. However, a chase can’t be ruled out.
Though a target of over 275 has never been chased at The Oval, there are significant matches where teams have scored big on the fifth day. The best example of it is the 1979 match between England and India. Even though the match ended in a draw, India had almost chased the target by scoring over 353 runs on the fifth day of the Test and fell short by nine runs. If that is way too long ago, another example was in 2007. England were chasing an unassailable target of 500. However, they managed to score 313 on the fifth day. As recently as in 2018, India lost that match while chasing 464 runs, but had scored 277 runs on the fifth day. These are evident enough to rule out a guaranteed win for India despite having the ball in their court.
It's not only The Oval, England has seen a few encounters where 270 runs have been scored in the fourth innings on the fifth day. In This century, there have been seven instances on English soil and three since 2010. The most number of runs scored in the final day (fifth) in the aforementioned time is 347 by Australia in 2005 in Manchester. England’s most runs tally on the fifth day came against India in the 2007 Oval match (313). But West Indies, in 2017 at Oval, smashed 317 runs, which is the most runs scored by a team in this century on the fifth day to win. Overall, Australia in 1948 at the same venue had hit all their 404 runs on the fifth day of the Test to win.
AN UPHILL TASK
There is enough support in the pitch to do the unachievable, but it is certainly not an easy route for England. If they are to reach it and go 2-1 up in the series they have to bring in their best. England’s biggest chase came against Australia in the most famous Ashes matches of all in 2019. Ben Stokes was the hero of that match. England have chased 300+ targets four times but this will be their highest if they achieve it.
Also, they have to keep in mind that, no matter how good the conditions are to bat, never has there been a target of 265+ been chased at the Oval. They needed to score 28 more runs on the last day than the highest target chased – 263 vs Australia in 1902. A target of 200+ has never been chased in this century.
With all three possibilities achievable, the fifth day at the Oval will see a full house on an absolutely dry and sunny day. It is predicted to remain as sunny as it was on the fourth day. This means, more sun beating on the pitch and easier batting. This also suggests Virat Kohli will be looking towards Ravindra Jadeja for wickets.