James Anderson has been ruled out of the last two Ashes Tests after suffering a recurrence of his calf injury while attempting to prove his fitness in a Lancashire second XI game.
England’s all-time leading wicket-taker had looked set to replace a weary-looking Chris Woakes at Old Trafford but there must now be serious concerns Anderson’s Test career is over after 15 years, given the struggles he has had with his calf this summer. It now looks painfully likely that the four overs Anderson managed before hobbling off on the first morning of the series could be his last in England colours. Seems a massive shame if we don’t get to see – just once – Archer, Anderson and Broad all in the same England attack.
Anderson has played a couple of games for Lancashire twos in recent weeks, but his efforts to prove his fitness for a home Test at Old Trafford have now failed.
Woakes will now instead compete with Sam Curran and the recalled Craig Overton for what appears to be the one final spot up for debate in the final XI given the squad England have named.
We're throwing it back to Craig Overton's maiden Test wicket on #SomersetDay 🙌
Cleaning up Steve Smith 👌pic.twitter.com/Q1vEh07VlA
— Cricket on BT Sport (@btsportcricket) May 11, 2018
There is – perhaps strangely given the two spare bowlers – no place for Ollie Pope or any other spare batsman, meaning the various misfiring members of England’s top seven all look to have won a reprieve. No official word yet on what order they’ll bat, although reports suggest Jason Roy and Joe Denly will swap positions. It’s another fudge, of course, but if continuity of selection is paramount to England – and when it comes to batsmen it clearly is – then it does look a slightly better use of the seven they are stubbornly sticking to.
Pope – and Warwickshire opener Dom Sibley, who has made seven first-class hundreds at the top of the order in the last year – can certainly consider themselves unfortunate.
Overton made an unbeaten 33 in England’s 58 all out against New Zealand last year, so if called upon should at least know what he’s letting himself in for. He also made a generally positive impression in the three Tests he played in Australia and New Zealand during a 2017/18 winter when precious little went right for England. His numbers were not extraordinary, but his first Test wicket was Steve Smith and his refusal to back down against the Australians was admirable.
Ben Stokes’ heroics at Headingley mean the series is locked at 1-1, but any Australia win in the last two games would still be enough to secure the Ashes.
Australia have a headache of their own in deciding who to leave out for the returning Steve Smith. Marcus Harris and Usman Khawaja both made timely half-centuries in the tour match at Derby this week.
The fourth Test begins in Manchester on September 4, and if pushed our best guess for the XI England go with will be Curran for Woakes as the only personnel change along with the Denly-Roy switcheroo.
England squad for fourth Ashes Test: Joe Root (c), Rory Burns, Jason Roy, Joe Denly, Jonny Bairstow, Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes, Sam Curran, Chris Woakes, Jofra Archer, Stuart Broad, Jack Leach, Craig Overton
No domestic cricket can take place until at least August.
An expanded training group of up to 45 is due to be named on Friday.
The governing body still aims to stage a shortened domestic season.
Professional cricket is on hold until at least July 1.
The tournament is scheduled to start on October 18 until November 15 in Australia.
Hales lost his squad berth in last year’s World Cup triumph after news broke that he had failed a second test for recreational drugs.
Brown’s 489 first-class appearances for Gloucestershire put him seventh on the club’s all-time list.