England ring changes as Australia hand Boland a debut

MELBOURNE: Embattled England made four changes Saturday for the crunch Boxing Day Test in a bid to keep the Ashes alive, while Australia handed fast-bowler Scott Boland a debut.

Joe Root’s team must win at the Melbourne Cricket Ground cauldron to stay in the hunt after heavy defeats in the first two Tests at Brisbane and Adelaide and with three still to play.

Those losses were characterised by batting collapses compounded by poor bowling and fielding with the visitors looking to stop the rot by shaking up the team.

Zak Crawley was recalled for struggling opener Rory Burns while veteran Jonny Bairstow takes over at number six from youngster Ollie Pope, who has failed to fire.

They have also mixed up the bowling unit again with speedster Mark Wood returning after being rested for their 275-run defeat in Adelaide.

Off-spinner Jack Leach is also back, with Chris Woakes and Stuart Broad overlooked in an attack that will be led by veteran quick Jimmy Anderson and Ollie Robinson.

Australia are bolstered by the return of captain Pat Cummins, who missed the second Test after being a close contact of a Covid-19 case. He replaces Michael Neser.

But, as expected, fellow pace spearhead Josh Hazlewood will again miss out as he continues to recover from a side strain.

Jhye Richardson, who took five wickets in England’s second innings at Adelaide, pulled up sore after sending down 38 overs with Boland replacing him to make a debut and on his home ground.

The experienced right-armer will become the first Indigenous man to play Test cricket for Australia since Jason Gillespie in 2006.

England: Haseeb Hameed, Zak Crawley, Dawid Malan, Joe Root (capt), Ben Stokes, Jonny Bairstow, Jos Buttler, Mark Wood, Ollie Robinson, Jack Leach, Jimmy Anderson

Australia: David Warner, Marcus Harris, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Travis Head, Cameron Green, Alex Carey, Pat Cummins (capt), Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Scott Boland


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