Eng­land needs to sal­vage some pride

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - SPORTS -

When they walk out at ‘The G' in Mel­bourne on Dec 26, Eng­land's crick­eters will know the only thing left to play for is pride. The Ashes are gone, along with two se­nior play­ers, so the se­lec­tors may feel changes are in or­der.

One en­forced change will be a re­place­ment for off­spin­ner Graeme Swann, whose sur­prise de­ci­sion to re­tire from in­ter­na­tional cricket mid-tour shocked his team­mates and Eng­land's sup­port­ers.

Mel­bourne has a drop-in pitch and con­di­tions are said to be con­ducive to swing and seam, but if the se­lec­tors are look­ing for a like-for-like re­place­ment for Swann, lef­t­arm spin­ner Monty Pane­sar could re­sume his stop-start in­ter­na­tional ca­reer. In­trigu­ingly, though, the Durham leg­gie, Scott Borth­wick, has been added to the squad and his su­pe­rior bat­ting and field­ing could see him leapfrog his more ex­pe­ri­enced col­league.

If Eng­land de­cides to go with an all-seam at­tack, there will be ques­tions about the fit­ness of Stu­art Broad, whose foot was crushed by a Mitchell John­son yorker in Perth. The Not­ting­hamshire pace­man sus­tained no frac­tures, but with the Ashes well and truly lost, the man­age­ment may be un­will­ing to risk one of the team's most valu­able play­ers.

Broad's ab­sence, should it hap­pen, could open the door for Boyd Rankin. The gan­gling Ir­ish­man has barely fea­tured in the tour so far, but af­ter a dis­ap­point­ing per­for­mance by Chris Trem­lett in the first Test, Rankin could win his first Test cap.

Steven Finn is un­likely to be con­sid­ered for se­lec­tion. The Mid­dle­sex player was de­scribed, rather un­flat­ter­ingly, by bowl­ing coach David Saker as “a work in progress” just a few weeks ago, and while he is un­doubt­edly fast, the man­age­ment seems to have lost con­fi­dence in him.

That means Rankin may make his de­but, along­side James An­der­son and Tim Bres­nan.

Talk of lost con­fi­dence brings Matt Prior into the frame. The Sus­sex keeper has been a rock for Eng­land in re­cent years and the sight of him scratch­ing around at the crease dur­ing a run of low scores has not been a pleas­ant one for English fans. Prior's run drought seems to have af­fected his keep­ing too, so the hot money is on Johnny Bairstow be­ing handed the gloves.

How­ever, if he is dropped, it is un­likely to be the end for Prior, who was voted Eng­land's player of the year just seven months ago. Prior's fall from grace has been rapid and painful, but he is too com­pelling and ex­pe­ri­enced a player to be aban­doned for good.

The only ques­tion for Aus­tralia's se­lec­tors is the venue for the post-match party. Un­less a freak ac­ci­dent oc­curs, the se­lec­tors will not want to change a win­ning out­fit. A team widely de­rided in Eng­land just a few months ago has turned things around in spec­tac­u­lar fash­ion and the Aus­tralians are wor­thy Ashes win­ners. The team will be now gun­ning for a 5-0 se­ries vic­tory, and its brand of hard, ex­cel­lent cricket may well see that am­bi­tion be­come a re­al­ity. Paul Tomic can be con­tacted at paultomic@chi­nadaily.com.cn

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