The Ashes: England has rung the changes for the must-win Boxing Day Ashes Test with Zak Crawley, Jonny Bairstow, Mark Wood and Jack Leach returning to the side in place of Rory Burns, Ollie Pope, Chris Woakes and Stuart Broad.
Crawley will partner Haseeb Hameed in the opening pair against Australia at the MCG, with Burns being axed after making just 51 runs at an average of 12.75 in the first two Tests, and Bairstow replacing Pope, who has only 48 runs at 12.00.
Woakes and Broad are the men to make way, with fellow seamers James Anderson and Ollie Robinson remaining in the XI. Paceman Wood and left-arm spinner Leach, whose exclusions for the second Test on a dry Adelaide pitch were criticised, return to give variation to England’s bowling assault.
England is 2-0 down in the five-match series and needs to win the final three games in Melbourne, Sydney, and Hobart between January 5 and 14, respectively, to reclaim the Ashes, which Australia has held since a 4-0 triumph in 2017-18.
Crawley has a Test match double century to his name – against Pakistan at The Ageas Bowl in the summer of 2020 – and his height and the back-foot game could be suited to Australian pitches. He was dropped after the first game of the home series against India in August, but he does have a Test match double century to his name – against Pakistan at The Ageas Bowl in the summer of 2020 – and his height and the back-foot game could be suited to Australian pitches.
The Kent batsman will open with Hameed, who has kept his spot despite only scoring 58 runs at 14.50 in the Brisbane and Adelaide Tests, which England lost by nine wickets and 275 runs, respectively.
Burns, who was dismissed for his sixth Test duck of the year after being clean bowled by Mitchell Starc from the opening delivery of the series in Brisbane, has been dropped.
Surrey teammate Pope, who struck 35 in England’s opening innings at The Gabba but has since produced scores of four, five, and four, has seen his Test average drop below 30.
Bairstow replaces Pope in the middle order; the Yorkshireman made a century in Perth four years ago and offers a plethora of Test experience, with this week’s match in Melbourne being his 79th.
In what appears to be a long England tail, Wood was rested in Adelaide but is now back to infuse pace into the bowling line-up, while Woakes’ omission means Robinson will bat at No. 8 in the absence of Woakes.
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