SYDNEY: Scott Boland has retained his spot in Australia’s bowling attack for the fourth Ashes test after his starring role on debut in the series-deciding victory over England last week.
Boland took six wickets for seven runs as England collapsed in the second innings to be all out for 68 in Melbourne, allowing Australia to retain the Ashes with two matches to spare.
Any debate about Boland’s spot in the starting XI ended when veteran pace bowler Josh Hazlewood was ruled out for a third consecutive match because of a side strain.
Australia made one injury-enforced change for the fourth test starting Wednesday at the Sydney Cricket Ground, with Usman Khawaja replacing middle-order batter Travis Head.
Khawaja’s return for the first time since 2019 comes after Head was ruled out following a positive COVID-19 test.
England's coronavirus concerns have mainly been off the field, with head coach Chris Silverwood among the support staff in isolation in Melbourne and missing the Sydney match.
Assistant coach Graham Thorpe, who will guide the squad in Silverwood's absence, recalled 35-year-old paceman Stuart Broad in the only change to England's lineup. Broad missed selection for the first and third tests but returned to replace Ollie Robinson, who leads the team with nine wickets in this series but has been sidelined with a shoulder problem.
Australia’s pace bowling stocks are strong, with skipper Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc getting good support across the last two tests from Boland in Melbourne and from Richardson and Michael Neser in Adelaide, as well as allrounder Cameron Green.
After inspecting the SCG pitch, Cummins opted against bringing in Mitch Swepson as a second spinner to work with Nathan Lyon.
“You need that disciplined stump to stump bowler. That’s what Scott brings to the table,” Cummins said. “It’s no secret. If Josh Hazlewood was available he was going to play. (But) it would have been a real shame to see Scotty not play this week after his efforts last week. I’m really glad he gets another crack out here.”
Thorpe said Broad and star allrounder Ben Stokes, who is yet to hit top form since returning in Australia from a prolonged break, were like a “couple of caged tigers” ahead of the Sydney match as England tries to end a run of 13 Ashes tests in Australia without a win.
“Getting the guys into the right frame of mind is very important,” Thorpe said. “They’ll want to put in a performance for themselves and, collectively, for the team.”
As well as the isolation of coaching staff and other pandemic-related restrictions in Australia, England's difficult tour has included a nine-wicket loss in Brisbane, a 275-run loss in the day-night test in Adelaide and the thumping innings and 14-run defeat in the Boxing Day test.
“Preparations have been tough .... obviously had distractions of COVID off the field as well, which have been challenging to say the least,” Thorpe said. "But we haven't played good enough cricket when we've been out in the middle, either.
“So from that point of view, we've got an opportunity this week ... to actually put in a really good performance.”
Australia: David Warner, Marcus Harris, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Usman Khawaja, Cameron Green, Alex Carey, Pat Cummins (captain), Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Scott Boland.
England: Haseeb Hameed, Zak Crawley, Dawid Malan, Joe Root (captain), Ben Stokes, Jonny Bairstow, Jos Buttler, Mark Wood, Jack Leach, Stuart Broad, Jimmy Anderson.