THE fifth and final Ashes Test gets underway in Australia today and while England may have already retained the famous urn there is plenty still at stake in Sydney.

Michael Clarke will captain the hosts in the absence of the injured Ricky Ponting and will be determined to lead the Baggy Greens to a victory that would secure a 2-2 draw.

It would be silly to suggest that Andrew Strauss and England will care little about the outcome at the New Year Test because they would love to head home on the back of a historic 3-1 win.

Fresh from their mammoth innings and 157-run victory in Melbourne, England are favourites for the SCG (7-5, bet365). The Aussies are priced at 11-4 with the same bookies while you can get 15-8 on the draw at Skybet, Betfred and Victor Chandler.

As things stand England have retained the Ashes but if you fancy them to win the series outright – a win or draw at the SCG is required for that to happen – you will get 4-11 at bet365. A drawn series is 13-5 at both Betfred and Coral.

On the batting front England opener Alastair Cook is favourite (8-15, Blue Square, Stan James, 888sport) to finish top for the series. He is 52 runs ahead of Australia's star man Michael Hussey (9-4, bet365, Betfred).

England No.3 Jonathan Trott is in third just now, 80 and 132 runs behind the top two respectively, but if you fancy a punt on him finishing top he is widely available at 12-1. However, given that Cook opens for the tourists I'd be surprised if he is caught by Hussey or Trott.

I wouldn't like readers to think I was wishing my life away but if you fancy laying down a marker for the next Ashes series England are 5-6 with Blue Square and 888sport to win the urn again in 2013.

The same two bookies are offering the draw at 9-2 while the Aussies are a tempting 11-4 with William Hill to win back the Ashes in the land of the Poms.

Play gets underway at the SCG 11.30pm GMT.


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