Nasser Hussain believes England are “slight favourites” to win the fifth and final Ashes Test at The Kia Oval.
Australia closed a rain-hit day four on 135-0 in a chase of 384 with Usman Khawaja 69 not out and David Warner unbeaten on 58.
The tourists require a further 249 runs on the final day to secure a 3-1 series victory but Hussain thinks the surface will aid Ben Stokes’ side as they pursue a 2-2 draw.
Hussain told the Sky Sports Cricket Podcast: “My feeling is that England are still slight favourites, even after Australia’s start. The pitch is spinning and a day-five Oval pitch does turn.
“Hopefully the rain has given Moeen Ali a bit more time to get better from that groin strain and Joe Root is a very useful off-spinner.
“Australia have two left-handers in at the moment and then Alex Carey, Travis Head and Mitchell Starc. Off-spinners like left-handers.
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“It is set up perfectly. The last day of a magnificent series and we still don’t know if it is going to be 2-1, 2-2 or 3-1.”
Karthik: Australia have chance to make amends
Hussain’s fellow pundit Dinesh Karthik marginally favours Australia.
The India wicketkeeper-batter feels the tourists will want “retribution” after losing the third Test at Headingley and then being comprehensively outplayed in the fourth in Manchester before the rain ensured they retained the Ashes.
Karthik said: “Australia have a chance of making it 3-1 and that’s where the pressure kicks in.
“I back Australia and I say that because there are people playing their last Ashes and they will want to make their mark.
“The last two games haven’t exactly gone to plan for them and here is a chance to make amends and get retribution. I am going 51 per cent Australia, 49 per cent England.”
Should Wood have come on earlier?
England did not bring Mark Wood into the attack until the 33rd over of the innings, by which time Australia were 99-0, with the paceman seemingly held back for when the ball started reverse swinging.
Hussain added: “I think Stokes could have gone earlier with Wood because of what was coming – the rain was coming and when the rain comes the reverse disappears.
“Also, just to get the crowd up. They were up this morning with the Stuart Broad factor but with the Khawaja-Warner partnership they died and got low.
“The moment Wood started warming up you could sense the crowd go, ‘this is what we have been waiting for’.”
Karthik said: “When Wood came on, straight away you saw Khawaja jumping – you could see him being hurried up and the shots that were played. In one over, things happened.”
‘Anderson not at his best’
James Anderson’s wicketless 10 overs on his 41st birthday included a chest-high beamer to Warner, which the Australia opener managed to angle down to deep third for a boundary as he fell over.
Hussain added: “Usually Anderson has metronomic accuracy, so it just goes to confirm that he is not at his best.
“On this pitch now, which has lost its pace and is more subcontinental, he is going to have to use those skills he has learnt in Abu Dhabi and Dubai – the cutters, the reverse swing.
“One thing is for certain and that is that he will keep going to the last ball of this Ashes.”
Watch day five of the fifth Ashes Test live on Sky Sports Cricket on Monday. Build-up starts at 10.15am with the first ball at 11am. Stream The Ashes and more with NOW.