Nothing short of an emotional contest will stitch England’s arch back from the ashes


Will Ben Stokes be fit enough for the final test? ©AFP

Thankfully, the fourth test at SCG was a close and tense affair. The three games in this series in the build-up had been so one-sided that it was suggested in some quarters that the Ashes should be reduced to a three-game rubber. It was a relief then that the Sydney test was competitive. Relief for England, of course, who escaped with a draw and avoided the blank. But relief also for the Australian public who, despite their love of victory, above all want to see good, tough and competitive cricket. At least the fourth test offered some of that. It would be nice if the fifth and final Test in Hobart, from Friday January 14, was an equally emotional contest.

It will depend on the tourists who dragged themselves through the final day at the SCG, battered, bruised but undefeated, to secure the draw. Their performance showed plenty of character and determination – qualities which, it must be said, were lacking in the opening three matches – but it came at a cost. Jos Buttler came home with a broken finger. Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow, key performers, walk injured. The energy England expended simply to hold on was immense and would have taken away a great deal from them. Waking up for one last game won’t be easy.

There is however enough to play for England. A 3-1 or 3-0 loss wouldn’t erase the disaster of the first three matches, but it would at least give the series scoreline a shine of respectability. Careers are also at stake, for both players and coaches. Rory Burns, for example, is set to replace Haseeb Hameed but knows his long-term future in this team is particularly uncertain. Jack Leach needs a good game after a quiet streak. For Sam Billings, set to become England’s 700th Test player, every opportunity is before him. Score one hundred here and suddenly he becomes England’s Test Match wicket-keeper for the foreseeable future.

Australia is less troubled. They have a stable squad and, provided Scott Boland is doing well on game morning, have no injury issues in the current squad. The hosts’ inability to eliminate England on the final day in Sydney was undoubtedly frustrating, but the hosts largely dominated the game and, had they not wasted time raining throughout the game , they probably would have won comfortably. They also showed in the second Test in Adelaide just how proficient they are as a pink-ball side, giving them a clear advantage over England for this day-night Test.

There have been plenty of outstanding performances from Aussie players during this run, but it’s an important test for Alex Carey who struggled with the bat – although his opportunities were somewhat limited – and looked increasingly more prone to accidents behind the stumps. He has proven in the limited formats that he has the ability to perform at international level and five tests is far too early to judge him. Even so, he will know he needs a good performance soon enough to really fit into this team. The pressure soon mounts.

This game is an important occasion for Tasmanian cricket. The match has been moved from its original location of Perth to Hobart due to the draconian Western Australian border restrictions and it will be the first test match from the Ashes of Bellerive Oval. Indeed, it will be the first Test of any type played here since 2016. Ticket sales have been strong and locals are hoping the weather plays the ball and the action on the pitch is as dramatic as it was. in Sydney on this excellent last day. . Not before its time, this Ashes series finally had the competitive play it desperately needed. Hopefully the fifth and final test will be just as hotly contested.

When: Friday, January 14, 2021. 2:30 p.m. local time

Or: Bellerive Oval, Hobart

What to expect:There has generally been a lot of grass on the Sheffield Shield pitches here lately and the green appearance of the pitch the day before the match suggests that will be the case for this match as well. This means fast bowlers can find conditions to their liking. There might be some rain the first two days, but the endgame seems to be fair.

Team News


Usman Khawaja’s twin hundreds at SCG saw him ousting Marcus Harris at the top of the order for this game with Gabba centurion Travis Head returning to number five after missing the last match with COVID. The only decision pending for Australia then is whether Scott Boland will be fit after sustaining a rib injury in Sydney. Indications are that he will do well to take his place in the XI.

Likely eleventh:David Warner, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Travis Head, Cameron Green, Alex Carey, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Scott Boland, Nathan Lyon


England will decide their squad on the morning of the game, but there are likely to be a number of changes. Sam Billings will replace Jos Buttler, who returned home with a broken finger, while there are still fitness concerns regarding Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow who both suffered injuries at SCG. Late decisions will be made on both. James Anderson, who has played the last three Tests, could miss with Chris Woakes an option to enter while Haseeb Hameed’s poor form could cost him his place at the top of the order.

Eleventh possible:Rory Burns, Zak Crawley, Dawid Malan, Joe Root, Ben Stokes, Jonny Bairstow, Sam Billings, Mark Wood, Stuart Broad, Jack Leach, Chris Woakes/James Anderson

© Cricbuzz


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