England’s hopes of registering their first win in the ongoing Ashes has taken a big blow, as their all-rounder Chris Woakes has been ruled out of the last Test with a side strain. Woakes failed to make any significant contribution with the bat in the first four Tests but chipped in with useful wickets at crucial junctures, taking ten wickets.
However, England will now have to fight it out in the last game in Sydney without their star all-rounder. Australia had already sealed the series after winning the first three Tests before the fourth Test in Melbourne ended in a draw.
At the same time, the visitors will have a chance to see what Mason Crane has to offer in red-ball cricket, as Joe Root confirmed the young leg-spinner would make his Test debut in the Sydney Test. Crane has been included in the side in Woakes’ place and would be looking to hit the ground running in conditions which are not unfamiliar to him. The 20-year-old had made his Sheffield Shield debut for New South Wales Blues last year at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG).
Root said the pitch looks likely to assist the spinners and is hopeful of a good show from the debutant.
“On this surface, he’s going to be a really good option,” Root said on Wednesday (January 3). “It looks like it should give a bit of turn throughout. The way he’s conducted himself throughout the whole trip has been outstanding.”
England’s Australian head coach Trevor Bayliss has already said Crane is capable of handling the rigours of Test cricket.
“There’s maybe no time like the present to find out,” Bayliss said on Tuesday. “We think he’s a guy that has got the goods, and the more he plays at this level, the better he will get. You’ve got to start somewhere.”
Meanwhile, the injury to Woakes has given under-fire Moeen Ali another chance to prove himself. The spin-bowling all-rounder has been one of England’s biggest letdowns in the series, having claimed just three wickets in the first four Tests at the cost of 135 apiece. He has also failed to deliver with the bat and has averaged a mere 19.42.
Root, meanwhile, further said England was not willing to take any risk with Woakes’ fitness with ODIs and T20Is still to be played. Woakes had suffered a side strain in the Champions Trophy in June and spent three months on the sidelines.
“I think more than anything it’s about making sure he’s not out for a significant period of time like he was throughout the summer,” Root said.
“He’s an integral part of both the white-ball and Test team, and it’s important he doesn’t have another setback like he did throughout the summer. For us, as a team moving forward he’s going to miss this week. It gives a great opportunity for Mason to come in and make his debut,” he added.
Alastair Cook, Mark Stoneman, James Vince, Joe Root (c), Dawid Malan, Jonny Bairstow (wk), Moeen Ali, Tom Curran, Stuart Broad, Mason Crane, James Anderson.
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