What does Australia's WTC win mean for the Ashes?

Smith's ominous form, Boland's metronomic accuracy augur well for the side as they dust off the cobwebs in style

Andrew McGlashan
Andrew McGlashan
Test mace in hand, Australia are pumped up, Australia vs India, WTC final, fifth day, The Oval, London, June 11, 2023

Test mace in hand, Australia are pumped up  •  ICC/Getty Images

Australia's victory in the World Test Championship [WTC] final was a landmark on its own, capping an impressive two years and securing the only title that had yet to feature in their trophy cabinet. However, this was not a tour with a one-off match; it's only just started. The men's Ashes begins on Friday at Edgbaston, so while the players spend a day or so celebrating, let's examine what Australia's performance at The Oval could mean against England.

David Warner is okay...for now

Even a pair at The Oval was unlikely to have stopped Warner from featuring at Edgbaston, although it would have turned up the pressure a good few notches. Instead, he goes into the Ashes having played well in the first innings, battling through a difficult first hour before flourishing by putting the pressure back on India's attack. The around-the-wicket line got him again, although this time a feathered pull down the leg side didn't quite add to the narrative. In the second innings, he drove flat-footed at Mohammed Siraj for 1. We might have a clearer idea of Warner's chances of making his Sydney farewell by the time the Ashes reaches the end of the Lord's Test.

Steven Smith is in gear

Smith's biggest problem was falling into the deep guard marked by Warner. He compiled a classy hundred in the first innings to lay down an early marker as he looks to go somewhere near repeating the prolific returns of 2019, where he made 774 runs in just four Tests having missed one with a concussion. Such is Smith's skill that he has flicked techniques again, deciding that the more extreme back-and-across movement he used in 2019 was worth returning to after his first two county matches for Sussex, which may fuel the views of those who thought he shouldn't have been signed. In reality, Smith would have worked things out anyway. It is likely his final Ashes tour. Only a brave, or foolish person would expect anything other than plenty of runs.

Don't wait too long to go short

Travis Head has been one of the stars of this WTC triumph. He started it with a blazing hundred against England at the Gabba and set up the mace-sealing victory with a blistering 163 at The Oval. But India missed a trick, with bowling coach Paras Mhambrey admitting as much. They did not go for a sustained short-pitched approach early enough. Head eventually gloved down the leg side on the second day and did not look entirely comfortable in the second innings. Expect England to test him out early, particularly if they have Mark Wood in the attack. However, they will need to get it right. Anything off line and Head will throw his hand into it, either slashing over point or carving towards deep third. Do not be surprised to see England post deep fielders as catchers for those shots.

Scott Boland has to play

Does much more need to be said here? An average of 14.57 from eight Tests, six times taking two or more wickets in an over. Australia have won seven of those matches. Perhaps the only question is whether his metronomic accuracy could play into the hands of England's ultra-aggressive batters who may try and line him up. But he is a shrewd operator able to nip the ball both ways.

Shaking off the cobwebs

It wasn't a warm-up match. It certainly wasn't, but the miles in the legs won't have hurt Australia's bowlers and, barring Usman Khawaja, all the batters had a good time in the middle. Pat Cummins was able to spread the load among his quicks with Boland's 36 overs the most sent down. After the third day, Mitchell Starc conceded that despite feeling good coming into the match, the quicks had lacked game rhythm. Cummins' nine no-balls stood out, but he wasn't concerned. "I wasn't doing my best with the front foot this game," he said. "Rhythm felt really good, just kept overstepping, which I don't normally do so I'm not overly worried." The overall performance on the final morning was very polished to suggest the rust was coming off.

Australia still like a review

They didn't prove costly in this match, but it wasn't Australia's best game with the DRS. In India's first innings, they reviewed for an edge against Shardul Thakur moments after Cummins had a wicket scrubbed off by a no-ball. In the second, Marnus Labuschagne convinced them to go upstairs for a non-edge against Virat Kohli (although he nicked Boland to slip two balls later) then they reviewed an lbw against Ajinkya Rahane that never looked out. There doesn't need to be much reminding of how it came back to bite them in 2019.

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo