Australia and England ring the changes for Ashes Boxing Day Test

Australia and England have rung the changes for the Boxing Day Test, with Scott Boland set to become just the second Indigenous men’s cricketer to wear the Baggy Green cap and Jonny Bairstow one of four changes for the tourists.

As expected, Pat Cummins returns as Australia captain after his close contact with a positive Covid case saw him miss the 275-run victory in Adelaide. But the hosts, sitting 2-0 up and looking to wrap up a series win at the earliest opportunity, have added further fresh legs to their seam attack in the shape of Victoria’s Boland.

The 32-year-old, who discovered a family link to the Gulidjan tribe in his 20s through his maternal grandfather, follows in the footsteps of fellow seamer Jason Gillespie, the first Indigenous men’s Test cricketer, and Faith Thomas and Ash Gardner, who have both represented the women’s Test team.

Speaking about the decision, Cummins said: “It is huge for him to become the second Indigenous [men’s] Test cricketer. Dizzy [Gillespie] was the first. In Australia we have a rich history going back 50-60,000 years and it is great that it is starting to be reflected in our team.”

Boland, a right-arm fast-medium bowler who has previously won 19 caps for Australia in limited overs cricket, also brings specialist local knowledge at the MCG and claimed eight wickets when Victoria beat New South Wales during the ground’s most recent first-class match back in November.

Jhye Richardson reported soreness in his leg after claiming a maiden Test five-wicket haul in Adelaide, while Michael Neser similarly steps down for rest. Josh Hazlewood is yet to recover from a side strain suffered at the Gabba.

“It is a luxury to have someone like Scotty ready to go, he’s fresh and excited to get his chance,” Cummins added. “We think he’s really well suited on his home ground to come in and perform. It is a dream for him to get his Baggy Green.”

England meanwhile are hoping four changes can apply the defibrillator to what has been a flatlining campaign, with Bairstow back at No6, Zak Crawley returning as opener, Mark Wood injecting pace into the seam attack and Jack Leach offering captain Joe Root a frontline spin option once more.

England’s Zak Crawley (left ) and Jonathan Bairstow during a nets session at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Saturday.
England’s Zak Crawley (left ) and Jonathan Bairstow during a nets session at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Saturday. Photograph: Jason O’Brien/PA

Ollie Pope had edged out Bairstow on the eve of the series but the 23-year-old right-hander struggled to repay the faith. His initial 34 in Brisbane was followed by scores of four, five and four that, along with a struggle against Nathan Lyon, prompted head coach Chris Silverwood to make the switch.

As expected, Rory Burns makes it a second Surrey batsman to be dropped, the opener’s first-baller at the Gabba having set the tone for a disappointing series. Stuart Broad and Chris Woakes are the seamers to step down to the bench, with the absence of the latter at No8 – tellingly England’s third-highest run-scorer – lengthening the tail.
Australia (confirmed): David Warner, Marcus Harris, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Travis Head, Cameron Green, Alex Carey (wk), Pat Cummins (c), Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Scott Boland.

England (confirmed): Zak Crawley, Haseeb Hameed, Dawid Malan, Joe Root (c), Ben Stokes, Jonny Bairstow, Jos Buttler (wk), Ollie Robinson, Mark Wood, Jack Leach, Jimmy Anderson.

Jos Buttler, speaking before England trained on Christmas morning, said: “It’s a massive game for us, and a brilliant venue to come and play cricket at. Everyone is excited to be here and I’m sure it will be a hostile environment but it’s to be embraced and enjoyed. We know we need to bring our best cricket because we haven’t done that so far and that is disappointing. With the situation we’re in we need to get there fast.”

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