Michael Clarke Confirms Changing Of The Guard In Fifth Ashes Test

20/08/2015 6:57 PM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST
JUSTIN TALLIS via Getty Images
Australia's captain Michael Clarke walks off the pitch after a practice session at the Oval in London on August 19, 2015 on the eve of the fifth Ashes cricket test match against England. AFP PHOTO/JUSTIN TALLIS (Photo credit should read JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP/Getty Images)

The final Ashes Test at the Oval is significant for two reasons.

It signifies an overdue changing of the guard in Australian cricket, and polarising captain Michael Clarke is awfully close to retiring with an average of 50.

Clark announced his retirement from the game in the week leading up to this match and in the aftermath of, what can only be termed as, a surprising and humiliating performance by the Australian team across this series.

What has transpired as a result of both the team’s performance and Clarke’s announcement is what will now be viewed as an official changing of the guard.

Steve Smith will take over as captain following this series; Peter Nevill looks to have secured the wicket-keeper's position with the return of Brad Haddin to wearing the gloves looking more unlikely in the future.

Added to that is Chris Rogers’ announcement of his retirement this week and and Shane Watson's omission from the team list for the final Test.

While young paceman Josh Hazelwood will miss this Test due to the effects of a gruelling nine months of representative cricket, Peter Siddle has been recalled in favour of emerging bowler Pat Cummins, 22.

Australia will face a determined England team despite the latter going into this contest again without strike bowler James Anderson due to a side strain.

But more than that, the Australians face a stats record at the historic ground in London that will dent the will of even the most avid supporters looking for an Australian win.

There have been 36 Ashes Tests played at The Oval in more than a century. Of those, six have been won by Australia with 16 victories to England.

Australia has won only one Test at the ground since 1972 and no Australian side has ever lost four Tests on an Ashes tour. So if Australia can pull off a win, this will go down as an historic Test indeed.

As for Michael Clarke, for him to take any personal positives out of this series, he needs to score 222 runs to bring his career average up to 50 from the 49.30 at which it now lingers.

Clarke fronted the media at the official pre-match conference following the final practice session.

Looking resigned to his fate, Clarke calmly declared: “I’ve given my heart and soul to Australian cricket.

"Unfortunately my performances haven’t been as good as I would’ve liked throughout this series.

“I think it’s the right time for the Australian cricket team and for me to walk away from the game.”

The Oval Tests represents not only a new era of promise for Australian cricket, but a fitting farewell to those who have been the faces of the Australian cricket team in recent years.

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