Men's Ashes 2021-22
Australia to bat first as England make five changes
Sam Billings debuts as injury and form see England make a whopping five changes from Sydney while a settled Australia side boosted by confirmation Scott Boland will play
Louis Cameron at Blundstone Arena`
14 January 2022, 04:01 PM AEST
Session times AEDT: 3.30pm-5.30pm | 6.10pm-8.10pm | 8.30pm-10.30pm
Scott Boland has overcome his rib complaint to hold his place in Australia's XI while England have made a whopping five changes and included debutant wicketkeeper Sam Billings for Tasmania's maiden Ashes Test.
England skipper Joe Root won a toss delayed by 30 minutes due to drizzly Hobart weather ahead of Friday afternoon's day-night Test and elected to bowl first on a green pitch he described as "tacky".
Australia had waited until this morning to decide on Boland's fitness but the fast bowler who currently holds Test cricket's greatest ever bowling average (8.64) has been deemed fit to play his third Test.
Australia XI: Usman Khawaja, David Warner, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Travis Head, Cameron Green, Alex Carey (wk), Pat Cummins (c), Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Scott Boland
England XI: Rory Burns, Zak Crawley, Dawid Malan, Joe Root (c), Ben Stokes, Ollie Pope, Sam Billings (wk), Chris Woakes, Mark Wood, Ollie Robinson, Stuart Broad
Captain Pat Cummins, who said he would have also bowled first, confirmed yesterday that Marcus Harris had been omitted for the returning Travis Head, while Usman Khawaja will move up from No.5 to open the batting with childhood friend David Warner.
Choosing between an opener who played a match-winning hand earlier in the series (Harris, in Melbourne) and a batter who is fresh off twin tons in Sydney (Khawaja) is the kind of selection problem the battered Englishmen could only dream of.
Fair to say Pat Cummins will be reminding Sam Billings about this when he walks out to bat on Test debut 😅#Ashes | @PenrithCC pic.twitter.com/aOK2fyQXli— MyCricket (@MyCricketAus) January 14, 2022
Haseeb Hameed's woeful run against the new ball (80 runs at 10) has left the visitors no choice but to recall Rory Burns, who was dropped after the previous pink-ball Test in Adelaide, at his expense.
Then there are the injuries; Jos Buttler has flown home following a serious knock to the hand and has been replaced by Billings, who was 90 minutes away from leaving the country last week following his KFC BBL stint with the Sydney Thunder but will now take the gloves in his first Test.
Jonny Bairstow, who bravely batted through pain at the SCG to make England's only century of the series and then played a key hand in their final-day holdout for a draw, will miss due to his busted right thumb to which he copped another knock in the nets on Thursday.
Ollie Pope, series average of 12 to his name, replaces him.
Jimmy Anderson looks to have played his final Test in Australia last week with the 39-year-old and Jack Leach left out for returning seamer Ollie Robinson and Craig Overton, in for his first match of the series.
The selection of four quicks (and axing of sole specialist spinner Leach) reflects the unlikelihood of allrounder Ben Stokes, another of England's walking wounded, being able to bowl in this match after he suffered a side injury in Sydney.
"It's remarkable that he's going to continue batting," star former England allrounder Ian Botham told Seven. "An intercostal is one of the most uncomfortable injuries you can ever get."
Mark Wood's selection for a third consecutive Test marks a positive step for England's fastest bowler who has previously struggled to stay fit for a full series, but raises questions about why he was 'rested' for the Adelaide Test when the series was still on the line.
"If you look at my injury record I wouldn't have said I could back it up," Wood, England's only 140kph-plus paceman with Jofra Archer and Olly Stone injured, said yesterday.
"As a fast bowler you're never quite 100 per cent, you carry niggles but actually I'm really pleased with how I've stood up to things and how I've carried myself in terms of injuries. The medical team have been fantastic with me.
"I look forward to playing four games out of five, it's one last big push for me to try and keep my speeds up and offer that to the team.
"I have worked hard at my fitness, I had a desire deep down to keep bowling fast on this trip, keep running in and being the only fast bowler here, without Jofra and Stoney, offering that difference.
"I've actually enjoyed responsibility, so hopefully I can keep my speeds up for another game."
The simple fact that the series has made it to the final Test is a considerable achievement for players and officials alike given how COVID-19 has spread in Australia over recent weeks, with outbreaks occurring in both Australian and England camps.
Presuming a full Test gets played, it will be the first five-Test series to be completed since the onset of the pandemic.
"I definitely thought once 'Trav' (Head) head tested positive and just about everyone I know in Sydney has COVID, I thought it was going to be a fantastic effort to get through the series," said Cummins.
"We've been tested just about every day for the past 20 days and it's been fantastic we've got through the series. Everyone is tracking really well actually. At the end of a five-match series there's always some tired bodies, some people ready to get home.
"But I think everyone will be taking a well-earned break after this last Test."
Australia XI: David Warner, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Travis Head, Cameron Green, Alex Carey (wk), Pat Cummins (c), Mitch Starc, Nathan Lyon, Scott Boland.
England XI: Zak Crawley, Rory Burns, Dawid Malan, Joe Root (c), Ben Stokes, Ollie Pope, Sam Billings (wk), Chris Woakes, Mark Wood, Ollie Robinson, Stuart Broad
Vodafone Men's Ashes
Australia: Pat Cummins (c), Steve Smith (vc), Scott Boland, Alex Carey, Cameron Green, Marcus Harris, Travis Head, Josh Inglis, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitch Marsh, Michael Neser, Jhye Richardson, Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Swepson, David Warner
England: Joe Root (c), James Anderson, Jonathan Bairstow, Dom Bess, Sam Billings, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Zak Crawley, Haseeb Hameed, Dan Lawrence, Jack Leach, Dawid Malan, Craig Overton, Ollie Pope, Ollie Robinson, Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood
First Test: Australia won by nine wickets
Second Test: Australia won by 275 runs
Third Test: Australia won by an innings and 14 runs
Fourth Test: Match drawn
Fifth Test: January 14-18, Blundstone Arena