Ashes Scout: Five changes for England, Marnus ‘should open’,
angry Anderson fires back at Vaughan

England are expected to make wholesale changes for the Hobart Test, although they are still mulling decisions over the fitness of Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow.

The Cricketer reported the tourists would make five changes when the teams are announced with wicketkeeper Sam Billings in for a Test debut. Opener Rory Burns will return to put Haseeb Hameed pout of his misery.

With Hobart serving up a greentop for the pink ball Test, Ollie Robinson will come in for spinner Jack Leach with Chris Woakes expected to replace rested James Anderson.

If Bairstow is unable to play because of his injury suffered in Sydney, then Ollie Pope will come back in.

“We’ve got to just see where they’re at,” said Joe Root of Stokes and Bairstow.

“We have to see what their bodies can handle and then assess everyone.

“You certainly can pick Ben just as a bat and similarly Jonny as well – he’s been playing as a batter anyway.”

England batted for 91 overs on the final day of the fourth Test in Sydney, with last-wicket pair Stuart Broad and James Anderson seeing out the final 12 balls to earn a draw.

Jonathan Bairstow of England celebrates scoring a century during day three of the Fourth Test Match in the Ashes series between Australia and England at Sydney Cricket Ground on January 07, 2022 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Jonathan Bairstow of England celebrates scoring a century during day three of the Fourth Test Match in the Ashes series between Australia and England at Sydney Cricket Ground on January 07, 2022 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Root says his side have to “harness” that performance .

“If you look at the week that we had – whether it be Covid leading into the game, a couple of injuries that we had to manage throughout the game as well – it shows a lot about where we’re at as a team,” said Root.

“It was on the back of three very difficult games where we’ve underperformed and not shown the best of our skills so we showed great amount of character, and it is definitely something for us to build on moving forward.

“The desire, the fight and the pride that everyone showed out there, and that last day in particular, is something that we have to harness and we have to play with more frequently throughout five days.

“We’ve proven to ourselves that we can do that now.”

While Anderson might have played his final Ashes Test in Sydney, he was firing up in his newspaper column after a sledge from Michael Vaughan earlier in the week.

“I read that my future is the “elephant in the room” according to Michael Vaughan’s Telegraph column this week. It is not the elephant in the room because the captain and coach know exactly what my thoughts are on it,” Anderson wrote in his own column in the same paper.

“They have told me their thoughts too. They want me around and to carry on. As long as that is the case, it is not an elephant in any room. We are talking openly about it and I wrote last week that everyone’s future is in doubt. It always happens when you get beaten heavily in an Ashes series.

“The ECB will look at everyone’s performance throughout the tour.

“In that respect nobody is certain about their future whether it is the captain, coach, top six batsmen or the bowling attack. Everyone is under scrutiny.”

Anderson said this tour had been the toughest of his career.

“For me, if I have the chance to play I will do my best and keep having conversations. I will keep talking to whoever about my future. I feel I can still offer something to this team and hopefully I will get the chance to do so.”

Cowan calls for Marnus to open

Former Test opener Ed Cowan has a left field solution to Australia’s top order conundrum. The form of Marcus Harris, return of Travis Head after COVID and the undroppable form of Usman Khawaja left Australian selectors with a headache for Hobart.

“It’s so easy to say he [Khawaja] used to open the batting and has Test hundreds opening the batting,” Cowan said.

“That’s a former life for Usman. He’s now fundamentally a middle-order player…”

“If I was the sole selector I’d be going to Marnus and saying, ‘mate, you’re opening the batting this week’ and Usman bats at 4, Head at 5, and all of a sudden you’ve got your best batsmen playing in the Test match.”

Marnus Labuschagne celebrates a century

(Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Cowan said would be easier for a No.3 to adjust to opening as they are often at the crease early anyway.

“Imagine it’s 1-0 … It doesn’t matter if you’re opening the batting or batting at No.3. It’s much the same role you are prepared to bat,” Cowan said.

Root aligns with Silverwood

Joe Root has offered his renewed support to Chris Silverwood, after the England head coach rejoined the squad ahead of the final Ashes Test.

Silverwood missed his side’s hard-earned draw in Sydney last week, watching the drama from isolation in Melbourne as he recovered from coronavirus.

Having presided over three convincing defeats and been absent from the morale-boosting rescue job, nobody will be keener than Silverwood to end the series on a high in Friday’s day/night Test in Hobart.

After more than two years in the top job, the Test side have gone into decline on his watch and the 46-year-old will need to persuade his bosses at the England and Wales Cricket Board that he can also be the man to reverse the slide.

With no indication that Root’s tenure is coming to an end – a reflection of the lack of compelling alternatives as much as his own record – the skipper’s backing is crucial.

And while convention dictates a united front in public, Root appeared genuine when asked if he would like Silverwood to remain in post.

“Yes, I would,” he said. “I think the performances we put in during the first three games, I feel we’ve let him and the coaches down to a degree.

“I think he’s very calm, he has the respect of the guys in the group and he’s got a desperation to see everyone do well.

“It was a difficult week for the group of players with him not being around and it must have been very difficult for him.”

Root also suggested the logistical challenges of fulfilling England’s exhaustive schedule during the pandemic era has worked against Silverwood.

No other international side have played as often in the past couple of years and Root believes the additional stresses and strains of the time have contributed to holding the team back.

“I think he’s had a very difficult time of it with the environments we’ve been living in,” Root said.

“We’re trying to manage winning games of cricket with bubble environments away from home.

“For a long time we’ve not been able to put our best teams out because we’ve been constantly trying to make sure from a mental well-being point of view everyone is looked after properly. That’s down to the schedule we’ve dealt with over two years.”

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