Usman Khawaja will replace Travis Head in Australia’s middle order for this week’s fourth Ashes Test against England in the only change to the side that wrapped up the series in Melbourne last week, skipper Pat Cummins said on Tuesday.
Khawaja’s return for his first Test since 2019 was expected after Head was ruled out by a positive COVID-19 test but the retention of pace bowler Scott Boland was something of a surprise.
Boland was considered a Melbourne specialist when he was handed his debut in the third Test but the 32-year-old seized his opportunity with both hands.
His six for seven in the second innings helped Australia to a thumping innings and 14-run victory and earned him the chance to keep his spot in favour of Josh Hazlewood, who is still suffering from a side strain sustained in the first Test.
“It’s no secret, if Joshy Hazlewood was available, he was going to play, he’s been a brilliant bowler for us for a long time,” Cummins told reporters at the Sydney Cricket Ground, where the match starts on Wednesday.
“It would have been a real shame to see Scotty not play this week after his efforts last week. It’s unfortunate for Joshy but I’m really glad (Scott) gets another crack out here.”
Cummins said Hazlewood would probably be fit to play in the fifth Test in Hobart from January 14-18.
There had been suggestions in local media that leg spinner Mitchell Swepson might be awarded his first Test cap in a twin slow-bowling attack with Nathan Lyon.
Cummins, however, said he did not expect the SCG wicket to deteriorate sufficiently to make that a viable strategy.
“I don’t think anywhere in Australia that I’ve played in the last two years has dictated a two-spinner,” he added.
“He’s a class bowler and we’re itching to get him into the side one day. We think he will debut at some stage, most likely overseas.”
Australia lead the series 3-0 after wins in Brisbane, Adelaide and Melbourne.
Australia’s playing XI for 4th Test: David Warner, Marcus Harris, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Usman Khawaja, Cameron Green, Alex Carey (wicketkeeper), Pat Cummins (captain), Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Scott Boland.
England recall veteran pacer Broad
England have recalled seamer Stuart Broad to the side for the fourth Ashes Test but the batting line-up that was dismissed for 68 in Melbourne has been kept intact, assistant coach Graham Thorpe said on Tuesday.
The second-innings collapse at the Melbourne Cricket Ground led to an innings and 14-run defeat which secured Australia an unassailable 3-0 lead in the series and the right to hold onto the tiny urn until 2023.
Broad’s absence from two of the three matches in the series so far has confounded many observers, including Australia’s Steve Smith, but the 35-year-old will be back bowling in tandem with James Anderson at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG).
Ollie Robinson and Chris Woakes both have shoulder injuries, Thorpe said, so Mark Wood and spinner Jack Leach will round out the specialist bowling unit.
Ben Stokes will add seam support and Thorpe said he hoped the charismatic all-rounder would take out the frustrations of a disappointing tour on the Australians.
“I hope we’ve got a couple of caged tigers coming into this match, Ben being one of them and Stuart Broad another,” Thorpe told reporters at the SCG on the eve of the match.
“Getting the players into the right frame of mind is important. I think they want put in a performance for themselves and collectively for the team.”
Thorpe has been preparing the squad in the absence of head coach Chris Silverwood, who was unable to travel to Sydney for the Test after an outbreak of COVID-19 in the England camp.
The former Test batsman said the health protocols put in place to ensure the series went ahead had been a distraction for the players.
“Preparations have been tough … we’ve had the distractions of COVID, which have been challenging to say the least,” Thorpe added.
“But we also know that we haven’t played good enough cricket when we’ve been out in the middle either. We’ve got an opportunity this week at a great cricket ground to put in a really good performance.”
England’s playing XI: Haseeb Hameed, Zak Crawley, Dawid Malan, Joe Root (captain), Ben Stokes, Jonny Bairstow, Jos Buttler, Mark Wood, Jack Leach, Stuart Broad, Jimmy Anderson.
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