England’s captain Joe Root has said that Jonny Bairstow and Ben Stokes may play as batters in Hobart, despite the duo being dropped from England’s Ashes squad. If either of them do feature, it would be a first for an English player since 1882.

The Ashes: Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow may play as batters in Hobart, says Joe Root

Sam BillingsSam Billings, England’s wicketkeeper, is in line to make his Test debut and become the country’s 700th player.

Blundstone Arena is located in Hobart, Tasmania. Time: 04:00 GMT Date: 14-18 January
Coverage: From 18:00 GMT on iPlayer, daily highlights show, ball-by-ball commentary on Test Match Special, with live text commentary, UK-only footage, features, and analysis on the Sport website and app.

Because of injury, England captain Joe Root believes Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow might play as specialist batsmen in the last Ashes Test.

While bowling early in the fourth Test, Stokes had a side strain, while Bairstow was struck on the hand during his first-innings century.

On the last day in Sydney, both batted to help England secure a draw and avert a 5-0 series loss.

“All we have to do now is check where they are,” Root remarked.

“We need to evaluate how much their bodies can take before assessing everyone.”

“You can obviously select Ben simply as a bat, and similarly, you can pick Jonny just as a batter Because he’s already been playing as a hitter.”

After Jos Buttler returned home with a fractured finger, England will have to make at least one change for the day-night Test, which begins at 04:00 GMT on Friday in Hobart.

During Wednesday’s practice, Sam Billings, who joined the group after playing in Australia’s Big Bash League, was spotted working hard on his wicketkeeping, and the 30-year-old is in line to make his Test debut.

“He has a great awareness of the nation,” Root remarked.

“Whenever he’s among the group, he provides a lot of enthusiasm and is always smiling – he’s a cricket fanatic.”

“If he gets the chance, he’ll give it all he’s got.”

‘Last-day performance must be harnessed.’

On the last day of the fourth Test in Sydney, England batted for 91 overs, with last-wicket combination Stuart Broad and James Anderson seeing out the final 12 balls to win a draw.

Root believes his team must “harness” that performance and use it to propel them ahead.

“When you look at the week that we had – whether it was Covid leading up to the game, or a number of injuries that we had to deal with during the game,” Root said, “it speaks a lot about where we’re at as a team.”

“It came after three extremely tough games in which we’d underperformed and not shown our best abilities, so we showed a lot of grit, and it’s absolutely something we can build on going ahead.”

“We have to harness and play with the passion, the fight, and the pride that everyone shown out there, especially on the final day, more regularly during the five days.”

“We’ve already shown to ourselves that we’re capable of doing so.”

‘I’m not going to beg for a break.’

Australia’s bowlers Mitchell Starc and Scott Boland – who has taken 14-121 in the last two Tests – are scheduled to be tested for fitness.

Starc, who has taken 52 wickets in day-night Tests and is the only speed bowler on either side to have played in all four, says he is “not looking for a break.”

When asked whether he had any niggles or stiffness, Starc stated, “It’s all up to the selections.”

“I’m in a nice mood. I’m hoping it’s not my time to relax… I’d love to participate. I’m not going to beg for a break.”

Should Boland or Starc be ruled out, Jhye Richardson and Michael Neser, who both excelled in the day-night Test at Adelaide Oval, are in Australia’s team.

Australia, who are 3-0 ahead in the five-match series, must also make judgments on their batting lineup. Travis Head is fit to play again after missing the fourth Test with Covid, but Usman Khawaja, his substitute, smashed two hundreds at the SCG.

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