ngland opted for Ollie Pope’s potential over Jonny Bairstow’s experience for tonight’s First Ashes Test in Sydney, while Stuart Broad and Jack Leach battle it out for last place in the XI.
As Australia named their squad – which includes new captain Pat Cummins and rookie wicket keeper Alex Carey – four days before the first test, England kept their cards close to their chest.
The final eleven won’t be named until the draw at Gabba, but they reduced their squad from 18 to 12 today, confirming that Jimmy Anderson will miss the pink ball test preparation in Adelaide next week.
Anderson has a bad record at Gabba and had a calf problem earlier in the tour, which caused England to fear overloading his 39-year-old body. Nonetheless, they say he is fit to play and he played another long spell in the net today.
Chris Woakes will replace him in the XI, alongside Mark Wood and Ollie Robinson – who have never played a test in Australia before.
With Ben Stokes at bat in 5th, the final position of the offense will depend on the conditions: either Broad’s seam or Leach’s rotation.
Haseeb Hameed retains his position at the top of the order ahead of Zak Crawley, which means the only doubt on the stick this week has been the No.6 position, a battle between Pope and Bairstow.
Bairstow is on his third Ashes tour and has a century in Perth in 2017 under his belt, but has struggled in recent times, averaging just 21 over the past three years, with particular concerns against the straight ball . He returned to the Test team against India this summer, was involved in important partnerships, but failed to score a big score. Still, he looked in good shape and had to retain his place – ahead of Pope – for the postponed final test of the summer at Old Trafford.
That status quo looked likely to hold for the first test in Australia, until last week’s two miserable training days in Brisbane. Pope made just 27 for the Lions, but Bairstow was sacked twice for 11 points the next day, and was reportedly outclassed by the youngster in the net.
Pope has yet to deliver on his abundant promises but has been impressive in South Africa two years ago and should have the game to adjust to Australian conditions.
England XII: Burns, Hameed, Malan, Root (c), Stokes, Pope, Buttler (wk), Woakes, Robinson, Wood Leach, Broad