Rory Burns and Ollie Pope axed for Boxing Day Test as England twist
England have swung the axe for their must-win Boxing Day Test against Australia, making four changes to the team in Melbourne.
Most significantly, the tourists have lost patience with their misfiring batting unit, benching Surrey duo Rory Burns and Ollie Pope in favour of the returning Zak Crawley and Jonny Bairstow.
Elsewhere, the bowling has been rotated once again with Mark Wood back after being rested in Adelaide and left-arm spinner Jack Leach recalled to the XI. Chris Woakes and Stuart Broad make way.
Burns and Pope have endured a lean start to the series, which England trail 2-0 after thrashings in the first two Tests, with opener Burns making 51 runs at 12.75 and Pope 48 runs at 12 from number six.
The pair held their places when England kept faith with a flimsy top seven despite a poor showing in Brisbane, but a repeat performance in the day/night Test at Adelaide has sent head coach Chris Silverwood and captain Joe Root scrambling for replacements.
Burns was clean bowled by the very first ball of the tour, but showed some signs of warming up to the series with a battling 34 in his last innings. With Crawley’s return hastened by some impressive showings in the nets England may have considered dropping Burns’ opening partner Haseeb Hameed instead, but have backed the younger man.
The number 31 may have counted against Burns in three factors – it is his age, his number of caps and his rounded-up Test average. He is the only England player other than Joe Root to hit a Test century in 2021, against New Zealand at Lord’s, but has also been dismissed for nought on six separate occasions and judgement may now have been passed that he has plateaued as an international player.
Pope is a different matter. England remain convinced that the 23-year-old is the brightest prospect of his generation but his progress has stalled and, after 22 caps, his repeated struggles to build long innings have become an insurmountable problem. His average dipped below 30 in Adelaide and, while he is certain to be seen again, some rethinking of his methods may be required.
The cavalry’s statistics do not tell a hugely encouraging tale either, Crawley lost his place after averaging a wince-inducing 11.14 in 2021, and Bairstow has a top score of 57 in 15 innings this year.
While that is concerning, England hope that Crawley’s height and tendency to play the ball late will prove well suited to Australian conditions and that Bairstow’s experience can carry him through a return in front of 70,000 fans at the MCG. He is on his third Ashes tour in Australia and scored a century in Perth four years ago.
England Test team: ECB investigating after police called to Ashes drinks following Hobart Test
Players and staff from both the Australian and English teams were at the event.
Rassie van der Dussen relished India banter in tough Test series
The series between South Africa and India rode on a knife-edge.
India in South Africa: Jasprit Bumrah philosophical on leadership changes
Coach Ravi Shastri and skipper Virat Kohli have departed recently.
Broad and company: It’s our combined Ashes comedy XI
Everyone loves a combined XI at the end of the series; ours is a little different/better.
England Test team: Coach Chris Silverwood unsure what future holds after Ashes
England lost 4-0 Down Under.
Racism in cricket: ECB to give update to DCMS committee in January
The DCMS committee has recommended public funding to cricket be limited if it does not make sufficient progress on racism.
Women’s Ashes: Lisa Keightley admits England are ‘still rusty’ ahead of bid to regain the Urn
The multi-format series was brought forward by a week and will start with three T20 matches at the Adelaide Oval.
West Indies skipper Kieron Pollard blasts batters after ODI series loss to Ireland
West Indies lost two of their three ODIs against Ireland at Sabina Park.
Keegan Petersen’s South Africa success shows the value of First Class experience
There is no substitute for experience.
Ashes post-mortem: What next for England after 4-0 embarrassment?
Captain Joe Root may survive the fall-out but changes elsewhere are likely.