Ashes 2017-18: England might make changes for Boxing Day Test

Australia v England - Third Test: Day 2
Doubts linger around the participation of Craig Overton and Stuart Broad

What's the story?

England may make as many as three changes for the fourth Ashes Test which starts on Boxing Day in Melbourne. Having already surrendered the urn after their defeat in Perth, England may be forced by injuries, as well as an urge to give young legs a chance, to include the likes of leg-spinner Mason Crane, right-arm pacer Tom Curran and wicket-keeper batsman Ben Foakes.

Craig Overton injured his rib twice at the WACA, leading to doubts about his participation in the next match as well. "It’s a hairline fracture at the minute," he said. "That’s why I was making sure I didn’t dive too much on it, because then it could break properly and you could probably puncture a lung – which would make it a lot worse."

In case you didn't know..

England lost the third Test by an innings and 41 runs to give Australia an invincible 3-0 lead with two matches to play. During the match, newcomer Overton was hit by Pat Cummins on the chest in England's first innings, and aggravated the injury while attempting the return catch of Usman Khawaja, as a result of which he suffered a hairline fracture on his ribs.

Stuart Broad, meanwhile, has an issue with his left knee. He underwent a scan and also had fluid drained from it in between matches.

The heart of the matter

As much as injuries, what has hurt England has been the lack of contribution of their senior players Broad, Alastair Cook and Joe Root. To add to that, the poor form of their first-choice spinner Moeen Ali has also been a cause of concern. After the first three games, he averages 105 with the ball and only 19 with the bat.

That might mean Crane getting a go in place of Moeen, while if England choose to play an extra batsman, Broad might have to make way for Foakes, who could play only as a batsman with Jonny Bairstow continuing to keep wickets.

What next?

The annual Boxing Day Test at Melbourne gets underway on December 26 with England desperate to salvage some pride by not going down 0-4 in the series. If Australia do happen to take that lead, there is a good chance that little could prevent a 5-0 whitewash of the visitors – as was the case in 2006-07 and 2013-14 – with the hosts looking unstoppable and England uncompetitive.

Author's take

England have nothing to lose by allowing youngsters an opportunity, especially with their seniors out of form and injuries affecting them right since the beginning of the tour. And Crane's case for inclusion is further strengthened by the fact that he has the experience of playing for New South Wales in Australian domestic cricket.

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Edited by Anuradha Santhanam