Atherton, Strauss suggest Ballance selection

England

Former skipper Michael Atherton has suggested England select the uncapped Gary Ballance and Boyd Rankin for the fifth and final Ashes Test, which will get underway at the Sydney Cricket Ground this week.

Former skipper Michael Atherton has suggested England select the uncapped Gary Ballance and Boyd Rankin for the fifth and final Ashes Test, which will get underway at the Sydney Cricket Ground this week.

Heavy defeats in Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth and Melbourne have seen the tourists slip to a damaging four-nil series defeat, with plenty of criticism lining the composition of the XI.

Opening batsman Michael Carberry and seamer Tim Bresnan were particularly ineffective at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Sunday, where the Australians triumphed by eight wickets inside four days.

"I'd be tempted to promote Joe Root to opener, put Ian Bell at three and bring in Gary and give him a game. Bresnan's place would be under threat from either Boyd or Steve Finn. But it's difficult to see how England can win in Sydney because they look very downhearted," said Atherton.

The Zimbabwe-born Ballance enjoyed a superb stretch of form recently, including twin centuries for Yorkshire against Surrey at The Oval, a telling half-century for the tourists against the Cricket Australia Chairman's XI in Alice Springs – and 89 and 48 not out for the England Performance Programme against Western Australia's second XI in Perth.

"I would be looking to get Ballance in too – he has got a very good reputation around the counties. This is an opportunity to see if he is ready for Test cricket," added erstwhile captain Andrew Strauss.

"Maybe now is also the time to give Finn the ball again and say 'Okay, you haven't been in great nick but we know you are a quality player – get out there in the middle and prove your worth to this England side because you are one guy that could play for the next 10 years; we can build a side around you'. That's a possibility."

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