Usman Khawaja has a chance to open the batting for Australia after impressive hits of 137 and 101 without out in his two innings; Sam Billings is preparing to make his test debut for England after Jos Buttler returns home with a broken finger.
Usman Khawaja gets his reward for his good bat form
Marcus Harris has been eliminated from Australia’s lineup for the fifth Ashes Test against England and Usman Khawaja will lead the batting with David Warner.
The day and night test begins Friday in Hobart. Australia won the first three games in Brisbane, Adelaide and Melbourne to clinch the series and retain the Ashes before the teams tied in Sydney.
Australia captain Pat Cummins confirmed Harris’s omission on Thursday, also saying that Scott Boland’s place on the team was subject to a fitness test after the fast pitcher injured his ribs during a mishap of bowling during the Sydney test.
Jhye Richardson or Michael Neser will be called up to the Australia lineup if the selectors or the doctors decide there is too much risk involved in picking Boland, who did not bowl during Wednesday’s training session.
“Scotty’s ribs are the only factor,” Cummins said. “He’ll try. If he’s not, then Jhye and Michael Neser are in shape.”
“Jhye is coming off a five on the pink ball (means) he’s probably next (in), but we’ll have that conversation when necessary.
“It’s a pretty tight change between Tests. We think he (Boland) should be right, but he will only have one other bowl on the networks.”
After scores of three, nine not eliminated, three and 23 in the first two tests, Harris’s place on the side came under scrutiny.
The starter bounced back with an impressive 76 on the Boxing Day test in Melbourne to retain his place for the fourth test in Sydney. But scores of 38 and 27 weren’t enough to keep his spot, as Khawaja scored 137 and 101 with no out in his two innings.
Cummins indicated that the decision to pair Khawaja with Warner at the top of the order was influenced more by Khawaja’s irresistible form than Harris’s lack of form.
“I think (Harris) knew he was coming,” Cummins said. “The message for Harry is that we think he is doing very well, it is difficult for him.
“It’s not very often that someone goes in and gets two hundred in the same game. I think Marcus has been really good, he has been growing with each game. It was a big part of why we won that MCG test.”
“This is more of a case of someone demanding a place rather than Marcus losing his place due to form.”
England were expected to name their starting team later on Thursday. Jos Buttler has returned home with a broken finger that will give Sam Billings an unexpected Test debut.
Ben Stokes has lateral tension and can play stunt hitter, while Jonny Bairstow is also under a cloud of injuries. If he can’t play, Ollie Pope will likely take his place.
“We have to see where (Stokes and Bairstow) are,” England captain Joe Root said. “We have to see what their bodies can handle and then evaluate everyone.
“You can certainly pick Ben just as a bat and similarly to Jonny as well. He’s been playing as a batter anyway.”
Chris Woakes is expected to return in place of Jimmy Anderson, who could rest.
Root said England have to take advantage of the struggles they showed in batting on the final day of Test 4 to secure a draw.
“It was at the back of three very tough games that we underperformed and we didn’t show the best of our abilities so we showed a lot of character and it’s definitely something for us to move forward,” said Root.
“The desire, the struggle and the pride that everyone showed there, and that last day in particular, is something that we have to take advantage of and we have to play more frequently over the course of five days.”