England aim to build on fight shown in Sydney but with different personnel

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13 Jan 2022 | 01:03 PM
authorShubh Aggarwal

England aim to build on fight shown in Sydney but with different personnel

It is a historic Test match for the venue, Hobart which will be hosting its first Ashes Test

“I had asked the guys to put some pride back in the badge (Three Lions). I think we can certainly say that was the case this week,” said the England skipper Joe Root after a draw in the Sydney Test.  

It was the first occasion on the tour when England showed a fight long enough to fetch a satisfactory result. In Gabba, they retaliated the pressure for only a couple of sessions. In Adelaide, they were nearly blown away. In Melbourne, they only had a good bowling day. In SCG, they fought multiple times with the bat. The key was throwing a punch back at the Aussie bowlers. In dire strait at 36/4, Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow gave it back to the relentless Aussie attack with a breezy 100-run stand. In the second innings, Zak Crawley scored a fluent 77 before England pushed for a draw. The blueprint has been laid out. The question is can they do it again?

The Ashes caravan has reached the final Test. The pre-match routine is not much different from the corresponding point in the last two Ashes Down Under. Losing the urn, England are looking for players to complete their XI. They are staring at five possible changes. However, the situation is different this time. A few of these are forced changes due to injuries. Such is their predicament, they had to call Sam Billings to join them despite naming an 18-man squad in the first place. 

But they will carry the confidence from Sydney where they hung around long enough for a draw. The whitewash is out of the picture. The fact that they got that result without much contribution from Joe Root will boost that confidence. 

Alien conditions for the two sides

The biggest significance of this Test lies in the venue. Hobart’s Bellerive Oval is set to host its first Ashes Test in its history of hosting international cricket since 1988. The opportunity may have come due to a Covid complication but it is the greatest moment in Hobart's cricketing annals. This is also the first Test at the venue since 2016.

The venue offers a level of uncertainty for both sides. Since 2010, it is the most bowling-friendly ground among the six Test venues in Australia with five Tests or more. 80 percent of these wickets are picked by pace bowlers. 

In 2016, Australia were bowled out for 85 and 161 against South Africa. That was also a day-night match.

There is grass on the pitch a day before the match although no one is sure how the track will play. 

"There's a bit of grass. Don't know what to expect. Every pink-ball [Test] feels like there's a lot of unknowns coming into it, probably more so here not knowing the venue,” said the Australian skipper, Pat Cummins. 

What do Australia have in store?

England have posed little questions for Australia in this series. Whenever they have, the hosts have answered them with relative ease. Hence, Australia have little to gain from this match, especially with the whitewash off the table.

Most of their bench strength is tested already with hundreds from Usman Khawaja and Travis Head. Jhye Richardson and Scott Boland have been among five-fors. One wonders if they will rest Mitchell Starc for this game. The left-arm seamer has played each of the four Tests, all in close proximity. At the same time, this is a day-night Test, Starc’s bread and butter version of Test cricket. 

In with day-night Tests, Starc has 46 wickets at 18.9 runs apiece. He doesn’t want to miss this Test, knowing Hobart’s history. “I'm not looking for a break. It's the last Test match of an Ashes series at home. It's a pink-ball game too. I'd very much like to play”, said Starc in the lead up to the Test match. 

From the future aspect, the only question lies around the wicketkeeper-batsman, Alex Carey. The left-hander has had an indifferent time both behind and in front of the stumps. His batting has been good without being great. Carey was part of a couple of vital 40-run lower-order stands alongside scoring a fifty. But all these knocks could have been bigger. Similarly, he has grassed a few tough chances. Skipper Cummins has shown faith in him but a big performance from Carey in Hobart will make it easy for the selectors to pick him for the tour of Pakistan.

England look for balance and more

For England, the questions are far more puzzling. Their first task is to assess the fitness of Jonny Bairstow and Ben Stokes. Their presence is critical to keep the fighting instinct within the side. 

The next argument circles around the bowling combination. Do they play Jack Leach in Hobart? The left-arm spinner had his finest time in Sydney. But Stokes’ unavailability as a bowler might force them to play four outright seamers. James Anderson, having played three Tests in a row now, may make way for Chris Woakes and Ollie Robinson. Last but not least, we might see Rory Burns back, owing to poor returns from Haseeb Hameed. 

In any case, Sam Billings is expected to make his Test debut in Hobart.

Probable XIs

Australia: David Warner, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Travis Head, Cameron Green, Alex Carey (wk), Pat Cummins (c), Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Scott Boland/Jhye Richardson

England: Rory Burns, Zak Crawley, Dawid Malan, Joe Root (c), Ben Stokes/Ollie Pope, Jonny Bairstow/Ollie Pope, Sam Billings (wk), Chris Woakes, Ollie Robinson, Stuart Broad, Mark Wood  

 

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Australia vs EnglandEngland tour of Australia, 2021/22AustraliaEnglandJoe RootMitchell StarcPat CumminsBen StokesAlex CareyJonny BairstowJames Anderson

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