The time for talk and speculation is over. The battle lines are drawn and the soldiers are ready. Now it is just a question of who is going to blink first. So far no quarter has been asked or given. I am talking about the fifth test of the ongoing Ashes. Never in the last decade and half, the last match held the key. Theoretically, England seem to have the advantage with just a draw needed to get back the famous urn or at least the replica.
The pressure is on both sides. The English have the burden of the whole nation with the Trafalgar Square booked and double-decker bus rides on the cards. There is also a talk of some the cricketers being included in the Queen's new year honours list. Australia are under enormous pressure to retain the Ashes. Ponting does not want to be the Australian captain after Allan Border to lose the Ashes. It is as much required for Ponting the batsman as well as the captain to win the Oval test.
That is where I feel Australia can go in for the kill. Most of the players are certain to play their last match on the English soil and that would definitely be the incentive to put up a great show. England have to soak in all the pressure and put in the finishing touches to a great summer.
The injury to Simon Jones might not prove as important a setback as was the absence of McGrath in two test matches to the Aussies. The time is right for Flintoff to put in another performance that would place him alongside legends like Ian Botham. Vaughan has to prove that his team is capable of winning against the big teams and not gloat over the wins over teams like Bangladesh.
Let the better team win.