Australia have illustrated the depth of their fast bowling stocks by handing Scott Boland a surprise debut in the third Ashes Test against England, which starts at Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) on Sunday.
The 32-year-old, who plays his domestic cricket at the MCG, will become the first indigenous Australian Test player since Jason Gillespie played his last match in 2006 when he receives his baggy green cap on Sunday.
England made four changes to the side that lost the second Test in Adelaide as they bid to keep the Ashes series alive, recalling fast bowler Mark Wood and spinner Jack Leach at the expense of Stuart Broad and Chris Woakes.
Batters Jonny Bairstow and Zak Crawley will feature for the first time this series, replacing Rory Burns and Ollie Pope.
Boland came into the Australia squad on Monday as pace-bowling cover with Josh Hazlewood sidelined by a side strain and Jhye Richardson and Michael Neser suffering the after-effects of playing in the second Test in Adelaide.
“Jhye and Nes were a little bit sore after Adelaide so we’ve decided to go with Scotty,” said captain Pat Cummins, who missed the second Test after being adjudged a close contact of a Covid-19 case but returns to the side for the Boxing Day Test.
“It’s a luxury to have someone like him, fresh and ready to go.”
Boland, who has played 17 games for Australia in white-ball cricket, has a strong record at the MCG in domestic cricket. Cummins said this played a “huge part” in his selection.
Australia, who lead the five-match series 2-0, only need to avoid defeat in Melbourne to ensure they retain the Ashes. They will be favourites going into the match with Joe Root’s men suffering heavy defeats in Brisbane and Adelaide.
“It’s a massive game for us,” England wicketkeeper-batter Jos Buttler told reporters. “Of course, it’s a brilliant venue to come and play cricket at. I think everyone is very excited to be here and I’m sure it’ll be a hostile environment.
“But we want to be embraced and enjoy it. We know that we need to bring our best cricket. We haven’t brought that so far in this series and that’s disappointing and the situation we find ourselves in, we need to get there fast.”
Australia: David Warner, Marcus Harris, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Travis Head, Cameron Green, Alex Carey (wicketkeeper), Pat Cummins (captain), Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Scott Boland.
England: Haseeb Hameed, Zac Crawley, Dawid Malan, Joe Root (captain), Ben Stokes, Jonathan Bairstow, Jos Buttler (wicketkeeper), Mark Wood, Ollie Robinson, Jack Leach, Jimmy Anderson.
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