Australia hold a perfect Ashes day-night record and England will have to put up another huge fight to prevent them from ending the series with a win in the historic Test in Hobart.

The tourists avoided a whitewash when they batted out a draw on a tense final day at the Sydney Cricket Ground last week, James Anderson and Stuart Broad preventing Australia from taking the one wicket they needed to go 4-0 up.

They will start a first-ever Ashes Test in Hobart on Friday with Pat Cummins' side strong favourites to make it three Test wins out of three over England under the lights.

The series finale was due to be staged in Perth, but was moved due to Western Australia's border restrictions.

England have not won a Test in Australia since they came out on top at the SCG 11 years ago and they have never looked like ending that drought during this one-sided series.

Blundstone Arena has been a happy hunting ground for Australia, the hosts nine out of 13 Tests in Hobart – that 69 per cent win rate being their best at any home ground where they face played more than twice in the longest format.

A draw stopped the rot for the tourists, but they are winless in seven away Tests. It is their longest run without a victory on their travels since a 13-match barren spell from October 2016 to March 2018.

Both sides face selection dilemmas for what Australia hope will be their 150th Test victory over their fierce rivals. Their next best winning record is against West Indies (58 victories).

England, meanwhile, will simply be hoping for a win to at least take some positives from what has been a miserable tour. However, in both day-night meetings between these sides to dates, Australia have triumphed by 120 runs (in December 2017 and December 2021).

Head return leaves Harris vulnerable

Usman Khawaja could not have wished to make a bigger impact after getting the nod at the SCG, scoring a century in both innings of his first Test since August 2019.

Khawaja became the first player to plunder a ton in each innings of an SCG Test since former Australia captain Ricky Ponting 

The experienced left-hander replaced Travis Head, who missed out after testing positive for coronavirus.

Head is fit for the fifth Test and averages 62 in the series, so he is set to come back into the side. Khawaja believed he was unlikely to retain his place despite his brilliance in Sydney, though there is a possibility the 35-year-old could find himself opening, with Marcus Harris potentially making way. 

Josh Hazlewood is still unavailable due to a side injury, while Mitchell Starc says he does not need a rest and that is no surprise given his outstanding record in day-night Tests.

Billings set for Test bow

Sam Billings is poised to make his Test debut for England after Jos Buttler flew home with a broken finger.

Billings drove over 500 miles to answer an England SOS call, having been in Queensland playing for Sydney Thunder in the Big Bash League.

Ben Stokes (side) and Jonny Bairstow (thumb) batted through the pain barrier in Sydney and will be checked on, with the vice-captain possibly playing only as a batter.

Rory Burns could be recalled in place of a struggling Haseeb Hameed, while Ollie Robinson will be hoping to come back into the team and head coach Chris Silverwood is back with the touring party after missing the fourth Test due to coronavirus.

Captain Joe Root (23) is one away from recording the outright second most hundreds for England in men's Tests, while he has scored 847 runs in the red-ball format in Australia – the second-most by any non-Australian player without having scored a century in the country.

Broad, meanwhile, is only four wickets shy of becoming England's second all-time leading wicket taker against Australia in men's Tests. The paceman is on 125 as it stands, three behind the late Bob Willis (128), with Ian Botham the record holder with 148.

Joe Root plans to give Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow as much time as possible to be fit for a fifth and final Ashes Test in which he challenged England to show "fight" and "desire" from "ball one".

Star all-rounder Stokes has already confirmed in his column for The Mirror that he will not be able to bowl in the day-night Test in Hobart having suffered a "low grade tear" in his side during the gritty draw in Sydney that ensured Australia cannot secure a 5-0 series whitewash.

Jonny Bairstow scored a gutsy first-innings century in that match but was forced to play through the pain barrier after receiving a hefty blow on the thumb from Pat Cummins, an injury that meant he could not regain the gloves from Jos Buttler, who has travelled home with a broken thumb, in the second innings.

Captain Root said both men will be assessed over the next couple of days before a decision is made.

"We've got to just see where they're at over the next couple of days, see what their bodies can handle and then assess from there," Root told a news conference on Wednesday.

"Certainly you can pick Ben as a bat, Jonny too. We have to see where they are at, what their bodies can handle.

"You have to trust the medical advice. Those guys work tirelessly to make sure we are in the best possible position to go and win games and sometimes that is making some difficult calls.

"I think they need to make sure they feel like they're physically in a place where they can get through five days of hard cricket, whatever Australia throw at them, and they're in a position where they can go out and play and firstly, get through the game, but also, most importantly put in a performance as they managed to last week as well. 

"It's alright being fit to play but you've got to be fit to perform and I think that's what we've got to work out."

Stokes made two half centuries in Sydney, while Bairstow made a hard-earned 41 in the second to add to his century with both men proving crucial as England bravely fought for a draw after being heavily beaten in each of the first three Tests.

England were still largely outplayed by the hosts and had to dig deep to avoid defeat. Root wants to see the same kind of guts throughout the duration of the contest in Hobart.

"On the back of three very difficult games where we underperformed, to come back and get something from the last game showed a great amount of character," he added.

"There was an element of relief managing to get through those last few overs but the desire, the fight and the pride that everyone showed on that last day is something we have to harness.

"We have to play like that more frequently through the five days, not just on the last day when everything is on the line, but from ball one. We've proved to ourselves that we can do it, now can we take it a step further?

"Can we make sure we do it in a winning cause rather than just trying to save a Test match? We have something to build on – that’s what we have to take from the last game and into this one."

Sam Billings has joined the England Ashes squad, driving more than 500 miles down the Australian coast to ease the tourists' injury crisis.

With Jonny Bairstow and Jos Buttler both doubtful for the fifth and final Test of England's disappointing Ashes series, Billings got the call to join the squad just 90 minutes before he was due to leave Australia.

The 30-year-old was in Queensland with Big Bash League side Sydney Thunder, and spoke of his surprise at the call-up, after driving down the east coast of the country alone, as a precaution against COVID-19.

"I thought it was a joke," a thrilled Billings said in an interview with BBC Sport's Test Match Special program.

"I was due to go to Brisbane airport to fly home, and instead I went to Gold Coast airport to pick up a rental car, and I was on my way."

Ollie Pope stood in behind the stumps for England on day four of the fourth Test at the Sydney Cricket Ground, with both Bairstow and Buttler waiting on scans after sustaining hand injuries.

Pope took four catches before the hosts declared at 265-6.

England's prospects of victory look unlikely, given they are chasing a target of 388. However, openers Zak Crawley and Haseeb Hameed were disciplined in a short spell at the crease in the evening session on Saturday, and the tourists' focus will now be on securing a draw to avoid going 4-0 down in the series.

Billings is hoping to make a positive impact in the final Test. Should he feature, he will become the 700th man to represent England in the longest format. 

"I've had to bide my time for an opportunity or consistent game time," Billings said. "I'm really enjoying my cricket, to have the chance to play and not just to run the drinks, I've done that too much!

"I want to prove, not only to myself, but also to other people, that I'm not just a fill-in, I am good enough to warrant a place in the side.

"If the opportunity does arise then there's no pressure on me. It's something that no one really expected, and I've got nothing to lose. That's a great place to be, and sometimes that's when you play your best cricket."

Billings then discussed the rather unique overnight journey that he undertook to meet up with the squad. 

"It's been quite a long drive, I'm not going to lie," said Billings. "People don't realise how big Australia is. It really is vast."

After an overnight stop near the border between Queensland and New South Wales, the 30-year-old continued his journey "at the crack of dawn" on Saturday morning, and was at least able to take in some of the country's scenery. 

"I've been on a motorway through lots of trees, hills and rivers. It's been pleasant, better than the M25!"

Australia's Usman Khawaja is expecting to miss out on a place in the side for the final Ashes Test, despite his stunning display at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

England will need to bat out the final day at the SCG on Sunday, and perhaps hope for help from the weather, as they look to seal a draw from the fourth Test and stave off the threat of a 5-0 series whitewash.

The tourists will resume on 30-0, their highest opening partnership of the series so far, after Australia declared on 265-6 in their second innings.

England had kept themselves in the fight thanks to Jonny Bairstow's century on day three, and added 36 runs to their overnight total in the morning session on Saturday.

Their bowlers started well, reducing Australia to 68-3 by the time Khawaja came to the crease, and Steve Smith's dismissal then left the hosts at 86-4.

Yet Khawaja, who marked his recall in place of coronavirus-hit Travis Head with 137 in the first innings, went on to thwart England's bowling attack once more, with his unbeaten 101 leading Australia into a 387-run lead.

Khawaja, who played for New South Wales and currently is a star man for Sydney Thunder in the Big Bash League, became the first player to score a hundred in each innings of an SCG Test since former Australia captain Ricky Ponting in January 2006, also against England.

However, the 35-year-old, who had not appeared in an Australia Test team since facing England at Headingley in 2019, does not expect his performance to be enough to secure his spot in the XI for the final match in Hobart.

"At the moment I'm quite resigned to the fact that I'll probably miss out," Khawaja told reporters. "That's just from talking to [head selector] George Bailey about continuity. That's important, I'm not totally against that process.

"I felt like throughout my career, a lot of changes were made and I was on the wrong side of them, so I'm the first to say that I think there needs to be structure and stability. I know how hard it is for a cricketer chopping and changing.

"I actually like the processes that the selectors have been taking throughout the series, so at the moment I'm not really expecting to play the next match, but I'll always be ready.

"Someone else may get COVID or something else happens. Heady batted beautifully in that first Test. I'd be very surprised if too much changed. Scotty Boland was amazing last game, something I'm not sure I'll see again, and he was going to be dropped. It's just the reality. It sucks, but that's just cricket."

While Khawaja is not expecting to play in Tasmania, he may also be joined in watching on by England trio Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler and Bairstow.

Stokes scored a resilient 66 as he battled through a side strain in England's first innings, while both Buttler and Bairstow did not field on Saturday after sustaining hand injuries.

Ollie Pope filled in at wicketkeeper, taking four catches, while Sam Billings has been called up by England for the Hobart Test, and assistant coach Graham Thorpe does not know if the trio will be fit to return.

"We've obviously got some blows. It's possible [they will miss the final Test] but we will be assessing all of that at the end of the game," he told reporters.

Jonny Bairstow was full of pride at his performance on day three of the fourth Ashes Test after his 103 not-out kept England fighting.

Joe Root's team have already lost any chance of regaining the urn, having suffered defeat in the opening three Tests, and they looked down and out at 36-4 at the Sydney Cricket Ground early in Friday's play.

However, Ben Stokes (66) and Bairstow put on a fifth-wicket stand of 128 to guide the tourists to 164.

Stokes' battling innings, in which he was struggling with an apparent side strain, came to an end when he misjudged a Nathan Lyon delivery and was trapped lbw, and England looked in danger of failing to avoid the follow-on when Jos Buttler got out cheaply for a duck.

Yet Bairstow and Mark Wood (39) fought back, with the latter hitting three sixes during an entertaining 41-ball spell that was ended by Pat Cummins.

Bairstow stayed at the crease, though, and cut Australia's captain for four to surpass 100 in the final over of the day, with England closing on 258-7, 158 runs behind.

It was Bairstow's seventh Test century, and his first since 2018, while no England player had scored an Ashes 100 in Australia since Alistair Cook back in 2017, with England's then captain scoring 244 on that occasion.

Bairstow was not selected for the first two Tests but returned to the fold in Melbourne, scoring 35 in the first innings and five in the second.

The 32-year-old, who made his Test debut in May 2012, also moved onto 1,033 runs scored against Australia.

Bairstow was clearly overjoyed when he celebrated his century. It was a poignant moment, with this Test having started on the 24th anniversary of the death of his father David, himself a former England wicketkeeper.

"Extremely proud, really, really proud. You've known me for long enough and how much that means," Bairstow told BT Sport. "Unbelievable, I was ecstatic, extremely proud, there's a lot of hard work gone into that one.

"It's been tough, you've got to dig deep, you really have. People mention the scheduling, how much red-ball cricket people are playing leading into massive series like this, it's not just this series, it's the India series, the India series before that when we were over there.

"You've got to delve very deep, on things you've worked hard at over a number of years. 

"Tried not to be too rigid. You can look at technique a lot. Some things work but other times you've got to keep being natural about the way you're moving or you become a bit clunky and too rigid. That's what I feel sometimes got to, trying to be something potentially that I'm not.

"My strength is putting pressure back on the bowlers, running between the wickets, trying to get them off the length to then give me a different ball. I wasn't necessarily doing that, but that also comes with spending time out in the middle consistently."

 

Bairstow took a nasty blow to his thumb from a rapid Cummins delivery just after Stokes' dismissal, but fought through the pain barrier.

"Slightly sore, it's starting to get a bit sorer now we've come off the field," he said. "I was hurting! 

"You're playing in a New Year's Test match in Sydney, on the Pink Day, it's going to take a heck of a lot to get you off the field. You've still got a job to do. Yes it's sore, it will be sore, but you're playing cricket for England and I'm very proud to do that."

An England victory still looks incredibly unlikely but, with rain possibly in store over the coming days, a draw is on the cards as the tourists aim to avoid a 5-0 whitewash.

"We've got two days to scrap and scrap hard," Bairstow added.

"We had a challenge this morning to still be batting at the end of the day. They've got a new ball coming, so tomorrow is about scrapping hard again. We got to the follow-on and past that, let's see how close we can get."

Jonny Bairstow made a brilliant century as England fought back on day three of the fourth Ashes Test at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

Bairstow (103) scored his seventh Test century, and his first since 2018, to stave Australia off after the hosts had reduced England to 36-4 in the morning session.

Ben Stokes, who battled on with a side strain, and Bairstow - who was hit on the thumb by a blistering Pat Cummins delivery - combined for a superb partnership of 128 to steady the ship for the tourists, who reached stumps on 258-7, trailing by 158 runs.

The start was delayed by rain on Friday, but having finished day two on 13-0, Joe Root's side were soon wishing for the weather to close in again.

Haseeb Hameed was dropped by Alex Carey in the third over, but England's opener was gone soon after, Mitchell Starc bowling him for only six.

England then lost Zak Crawley (18), Root (0) and Dawid Malan (3) without scoring a single run.

Cummins missed a caught-and-bowled chance to dismiss Stokes on nine, and the all-rounder subsequently survived a bizarre incident when Cameron Green hit the stumps but the bails did not fall off. Stokes was given out leg before wicket, but an instant review saved him.

Stokes went on to make 66 before he misjudged a delivery from Nathan Lyon and was trapped lbw, with Bairstow then getting clattered on the hand by Cummins off the next ball.

Jos Buttler went for a duck and another batting collapse seemed on the cards, but Bairstow and Mark Wood (39) took the game back to Australia, the paceman hitting three sixes in an entertaining knock, which came to an end when he gloved Cummins onto his helmet and into the hands of Lyon.

Bairstow continued to defy Australia and cut Cummins for four to reach three figures in the final over of the day.

 

Bairstow back with a bang

Having not been selected in the opening two Tests, Bairstow produced a stunning century in the circumstances - the first scored by an England player in a miserable series for the tourists.

Given Buttler's lack of form, Bairstow could find himself donning the gloves again in the fifith Test. England will be hoping the Yorkshireman can frustrate Australia further on Saturday and the weather could also thwart Cummins' side in their pursuit of a whitewash.

Bairstow and Stokes' partnership was only the second time a visiting duo have added 100 plus runs for the fifth wicket in Australia after their team were four down for fewer than 50.

Boland, Stokes suffer

Scott Boland (2-25) was the pick of Australia's bowlers, but the 32-year-old - who made a dream debut in Melbourne - was forced off with a side injury.

The quick went for a scan and was cleared to bowl in the nets and subsequently return for the evening session, so Australia will be hoping he is fit to fire on day four.

Stokes, meanwhile, may not be so lucky, as he was grimacing throughout his battling innings.

Jonny Bairstow said England would face a "huge morning session" on day two of the third Test after Australia got off to a flying start in Melbourne.

Armed with a 2-0 series lead and needing only a draw at the MCG to retain the Ashes, Australia bowled out England for 185 and then raced to 61-1 at stumps.

The game could yet turn, but England cannot afford to allow Australia to build a big lead, after the one-sided nature of the previous contests in Brisbane and Adelaide.

Captain Joe Root top-scored with 50 for England on Boxing Day, with Bairstow weighing in with 35, but the openers failed and tenacity was widely lacking as Australia picked up cheap wickets. Dawid Malan showed some grit but made just 14 runs, sharing in a stand of 48 with Root before becoming the third of Pat Cummins' three victims.

Root's innings gave him a ninth Test half-century in Australia, the most by a touring player in the country without having gone on to make a hundred.

Bairstow told the BBC's Test Match Special: "To lose the toss and get put in on a pitch that was doing plenty, I thought we grafted pretty well first up. Dawid and Joe put on another good partnership. We were really unfortunate to lose Dawid before lunch, otherwise that would have been a good session for us.

"We've seen there's a little more inconsistent bounce this evening. Marcus Harris got one on the glove and the following ball didn't carry through to the keeper. We'll be looking to exploit those areas in the morning; the morning session will be a huge session and let's see how we go."

Harris was left with a bleeding finger after being hit by a ball from Ben Stokes that bounced sharply. The Australia opener will resume alongside nightwatchman Nathan Lyon in the morning after James Anderson had David Warner caught for 38 by Zak Crawley shortly before the close.

Warner had been typically aggressive as he looked to compound England's misery, but a thick edge to Crawley at gully ended his assault.

"He was always looking to put pressure back on our bowlers. That's how he plays," Bairstow said. "He's scored runs in this series and previously, so it was a big boost to pick him up just before the end, and we'll come back in the morning, all guns blazing and ready to go."

Australia did not let Warner's wicket dampen their enjoyment of the day.

Captain Cummins and spinner Lyon both returned figures of 3-36, while Cameron Green and debutant Scott Boland chipped in with a wicket apiece.

Mitchell Starc removed Root and Bairstow as he took 2-54, and the paceman said on BT Sport: "It was quite a bit tacky underfoot and the spikes didn't really grab until that last session, so there was maybe not the air speed from us all today, but I thought we still bowled really well.

"We probably bowled a fraction fuller than England in that first session for them, and Pat was fantastic to get those first wickets and get us under way.

"Collectively, [bowling England out for] 185 is a pretty good day for us today."

Boland said it had been "a very special day", as the 32-year-old Melburnian made his Test bow and had a wicket – dismissing Mark Wood lbw – and two catches to show for it.

Starc was full of praise, saying: "It was awesome, the big Victorian here at his home ground to get his cap. He said he was quite nervous under a couple of those catches, but to get his first wicket at his home ground on the day of his debut was fantastic to see, and I think that might just calm him down for the second innings."

England have made sweeping changes ahead of the Ashes Boxing Day Test with Rory Burns, Ollie Pope, Stuart Broad and Chris Woakes all omitted.

Batsmen Zac Crawley and Jonny Bairstow earn their first opportunities during this Ashes series while paceman Mark Wood and spinner Jack Leach have been recalled.

England trail 2-0 in the Ashes after heavy defeats in Brisbane and Adelaide and will look to keep the series alive at the MCG starting on Sunday.

Opening batsman Burns has been left out after managing only 51 runs at 12.75 along with Ollie Pope with 48 runs at 12 in the first two Tests.

Broad and Woakes make way as England look to add variety to their attack which has allowed Australia to score more than 400 runs in the first innings of both Test matches.

England vice-captain Jos Buttler told reporters on Saturday: "I'd say the reaction is just an honest one from the group. We've had some honest conversations.

"When you come and play Australia we need to be at your best. We're honest with ourselves that we haven’t been there yet. We have to find that very quickly."

Jonny Bairstow has been left out of England's 12-man squad for the first Ashes Test against Australia.

The 32-year-old, who is on his third Ashes tour, struggled during last weekend's warm-up against England Lions and has lost his place in the side.

Ollie Pope is instead preferred to Bairstow in the middle order for the match at the Gabba in Brisbane, which begins on Wednesday.

England had announced earlier on Tuesday that paceman James Anderson is "fit" but will not play a part in the first Test as a precaution.

Spinner Jack Leach is included in the squad, as is Ben Stokes, whose last meaningful cricket came back in July.

Visiting England, who are looking to reclaim the urn from Australia's grip, will name their final XI at the toss.

Australia named their starting XI last week, with Travis Head getting the nod over Usman Khawaja in one of the big selection calls made by Pat Cummins.

England have won two of their last three Tests against Australia – including a 135-run win when they last met, though they are winless in their last 10 away Tests to Australia (D1, L9) having last won in the country in January 2011.

Joe Root's England have lost six of their last nine Tests heading into this series (W1 D2) and have lost their last three Tests away from home. The last time they lost more consecutive away Tests was a seven-game stretch from November 2016 to December 2017.

 

England squad for first Ashes Test: Joe Root (c), Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Haseeb Hameed, Jack Leach, Dawid Malan, Ollie Pope, Ollie Robinson, Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood.

Wicketkeeper Jos Buttler has returned to England's squad for the fifth and final Test against India, which starts at Old Trafford on Friday.

Buttler missed the fourth Test, a 157-run loss to India at The Oval, to be present at the birth of his second child.

Jonny Bairstow took over wicketkeeping duties in Buttler's absence as England went 2-1 down in the five-match series.

Sam Billings, who was included in the squad for the fourth Test squad as cover for Bairstow, has now returned to Kent.

Left-arm spinner Jack Leach is also named in the 16-man party for the match.

He was in England's squad for the first two Tests against India but not selected, and has not featured in a Test match since March.

Leach would give England captain Joe Root another spin option alongside Moeen Ali.

Fast bowler Mark Wood, who has returned from a shoulder injury, and left-arm seamer Sam Curran, dropped for the fourth Test, are both available.

England coach Chris Silverwood acknowledged that, with James Anderson and Ollie Robinson having toiled at The Oval, he may need to freshen up a fatigued attack.

"We have got some aching bodies, I'm not going to deny that," Silverwood said.

"So we obviously have to keep an eye on that. He [Wood] could come back and if he does, he will obviously add that pace for us.

"If the pitch is abrasive as it usually is at Old Trafford there should be reverse swing."

Lancashire seamer Anderson, England's record wicket-taker, would be loathe to miss out on playing at his home ground.

Silverwood acknowledged that with a short turnaround between Tests he will need to have a discussion with the 39-year-old over his fitness. 

"James knows his own body. He will certainly give me an honest opinion of where he is at, and it's certainly something I will listen to," Silverwood explained.

"It'll be a discussion that he and I will have together. He will have input into that, without a shadow of a doubt.

"I know what it's like, he won't want to miss any cricket. We have to make sure we look after him.

"Although there is a gap between the final Test and what's in front of him, he's certainly someone I want to make sure is looked after."

England squad for the fifth Test against India at Old Trafford:  Joe Root (captain), Moeen Ali, James Anderson, Jonny Bairstow, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Sam Curran, Haseeb Hameed, Dan Lawrence, Jack Leach, Dawid Malan, Craig Overton, Ollie Pope, Ollie Robinson, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood.

England will change a winning team for the fourth Test against India, with Jonny Bairstow taking over wicketkeeping duties from the absent Jos Buttler.

Buttler is skipping the Oval clash as he and his wife await the birth of their second child, meaning batsman Bairstow will take the gloves, and England have called in Sam Billings as cover.

It means at least one change will be made to the XI that beat India by an innings and 76 runs at Headingley to square the series, and it appears likely Ollie Pope will be the beneficiary, coming in to fortify the middle order in a match that gets under way on Thursday.

Chris Woakes is another option for head coach Chris Silverwood, who has recalled the Warwickshire all-rounder after he recovered from a heel injury.

Paceman Mark Wood also comes into contention, as he shows signs of recovering well from the shoulder injury that kept him out of the Headingley match, but Saqib Mahmood has been released to Lancashire duty.

Silverwood said: "It is very pleasing that we have Chris Woakes returning to the Test squad. He has bowled well over the past week with Warwickshire without any real concerns with his heel injury.

"He is an asset we have been missing both with the ball and his ability to score runs in the middle order. We are looking forward to seeing him prepare at The Oval as we go into back-to-back Tests.

"Mark Wood is making excellent recovery from his jarred right shoulder. He bowled in the middle on the last day at Headingley with our bowling coach Jon Lewis and was starting to get through his spells pain-free.

"For the first time in this series, it is pleasing to have several options with our bowling stocks as we approach the latter stages of the series.

"We would like to wish Jos and his family all the very best for the impending birth of their second child. Unfortunately, he will miss this Test, and we'll then see if he returns for the final Test at Emirates Old Trafford.

"Jonny Bairstow will take over wicketkeeping duties, which he is relishing. As we all know, he has the skills to seamlessly take over from Jos and the ability to score crucial runs in the middle order if called upon.

"Sam Billings, who was in the Test squad for the New Zealand series earlier this summer, returns as reserve keeper. He understands how we want to approach our cricket and is a popular member of the group. He will fit in well with the rest of the group."

The absence of Buttler means England lose their vice-captain, and his replacement in that role has not yet been specified.

 

England squad for the fourth Test against India at The Oval: Joe Root (captain), Moeen Ali, James Anderson, Jonny Bairstow, Sam Billings, Rory Burns, Sam Curran, Haseeb Hameed, Dan Lawrence, Dawid Malan, Craig Overton, Ollie Pope, Ollie Robinson, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood.

England will return for day four of the second Test with India with "fire in the belly", according to Jonny Bairstow, after Joe Root's unbeaten 180 propelled them into the lead.

Root surpassed 9,000 Test runs and took his average beyond 50 with an exceptional innings at Lord's, which marked his 11th score of 150 in the longest format.

Barring a truly remarkable second innings, he will not have the chance to score his second double century against India this year after number 11 James Anderson was bowled with the final delivery of the day.

England were all out for 391, a lead of 27, Anderson's spell at the crease including a 10-ball over from Jasprit Bumrah, who also struck the tailender on the helmet.

But Bairstow, who scored his first half-century since the 2019 Ashes in forming a 121-run fourth-wicket partnership with Root, has no doubt Anderson will respond by posing India plenty of problems on day four.

"What a day, to pass 9,000 Test runs is a special achievement, to score 180 not out at the home of cricket is also a special achievement," Bairstow told Sky Sports of Root's performance.

"It's pleasing to spend a decent amount of time out in the middle and contribute and put on a 100 partnership with Joe.

"Hopefully, me personally, I can build on that, obviously built on the innings at Nottingham, the first innings here, leading into the next few innings within the series – hopefully I can go on and make a big one.

"We've put ourselves in a position now where hopefully we can capitalise."

Asked about the treatment Anderson received, he added: "I'm sure when Jimmy comes to bowl he'll cause a few problems himself. We'll come again tomorrow with fire in the belly."

Jonny Bairstow looks set to get a chance to revive his Test career on Wednesday – against the very opponents who looked to have ended it earlier this year.

England batsman Bairstow recorded three ducks in four innings as Joe Root's side fell to a 3-1 series loss in India and the Yorkshireman did not feature in the home red-ball series against New Zealand in June.

However, he is back in the fold for the five-match rubber against Virat Kohli's men, which begins at Trent Bridge, and a thigh injury to Ollie Pope looks to have created an opening in the middle order.

Ben Stokes' absence as the star all-rounder takes time out to look after his mental health and allow an injured finger to heal means Bairstow's experience might win the day over Dan Lawrence when it comes to deciding who should bat at number five below Root.

The lack of Stokes also means Bairstow and Lawrence could both play, although that would see Root restricted to a four-man bowling attack.

A greater degree of firepower will probably be required against a fine India side, although the tourists' strength in all departments has served to undermine their preparations.

Opener Mayank Agarwal will miss the opening Test with concussion after being struck on the head by a Mohammed Siraj bouncer in the nets.

Shubman Gill is already absent with a shin injury and vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane strongly suggested India would be loathe to move Cheteshwar Pujara up from his pivotal number three slot. It could mean Abhimanyu Easwaran stepping in to open despite not playing any first-class cricket for 15 months.

Although far from an ideal scenario, the combination of a heavily loaded international schedule and the demands of quarantine and bio-secure bubbles means plenty of players – including much of England's brittle batting order – are heading into what should be an elite-level contest somewhat undercooked.

England look to their Mr Dependable once more

James Anderson's incredible career as the most prolific seam bowler in Test history looked to be reaching the end in 2019, when calf problems restricted him to just four overs in that year's Ashes series.

Since then, he has claimed 42 wickets for England at 23, breaking through the 600-wicket barrier in the process. As pacemen Jofra Archer and Ollie Stone nurse their latest injuries, the 39-year-old Anderson remains as important to his country's prospects of success as ever.

Preparation the key for Kohli

Anderson resuming his duel with master batsman Kohli is once again sure to be a highlight of the series. The India captain has been in England with his squad for two months now, with the World Test Championship final defeat to New Zealand at least clearing the way for the sort of acclimatisation and preparation seldom enjoyed for away tours in the modern era.

Kohli averages 35.63 in Tests in England, with two centuries and three centuries to his name in 11 matches. Although a perfectly respectable record, he would love to bring it closer to his returns in Australia – conditions that a haul of six centuries and four fifties (average 54.08) show he has unquestionably tamed.

Ollie Robinson has been recalled for England's first two Tests against India, with Jonny Bairstow and Ben Stokes also named in the 17-man squad.

Robinson impressed on debut against New Zealand at Lord's in June, taking seven wickets.

But during the match, historic Twitter posts of a racist and sexist nature made by the 27-year-old Sussex seamer emerged and, following an investigation, he was handed an eight-match ban and fined £3,200 for breaking England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) directives.

Five of the eight games were suspended for two years and Robinson served the others while his case was examined.

He comes back into the fold as captain Joe Root heads into the five-match series, which begins at Trent Bridge on August 4, without Jofra Archer and Chris Woakes due to respective elbow and heel injuries.

Bairstow will provide wicketkeeping cover for Jos Buttler – another player to return having missed the New Zealand series following India Premier League commitments, along with all-rounder Sam Curran – and could also push for a place as a specialist batsman given the meagre efforts of England's middle order in the 1-0 loss to the Black Caps.

 

Stokes played through the pain in the recent ODI series win over Pakistan, returning ahead of schedule from a broken finger to captain a scratch team after a COVID-19 forced all of the initially selected squad into isolation.

James Bracey drops out after two consecutive ducks and a tough examination with the gloves on his maiden venture in the longest format, and there is no place for Dawid Malan.

Haseeb Hameed will again provide an alternative to out-of-form number three Zak Crawley, although Bairstow also filled that slot away from home earlier this year. Following some promising contributions in Sri Lanka he registered three noughts in four outings against India.

All of the England players allocated to franchises in the new Hundred competition will play in the first two matches before joining up with the Test squad.

Bairstow's mooted return to the Test setup brought thinly veiled irritation on Tuesday from Welsh Fire head coach Gary Kirsten, who was hoping to have the Yorkshireman available for the majority of the campaign.

Speaking to talkSPORT, former South Africa opener Kirsten said: "We're hearing that Jonny Bairstow, who we've designated as our captain, is now suddenly becoming a Test cricketer again. So we could have him for maybe one or two games"

 

England squad: Joe Root (capt), James Anderson, Jonny Bairstow, Dom Bess, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Zak Crawley, Sam Curran, Haseeb Hameed, Dan Lawrence, Jack Leach, Ollie Pope, Ollie Robinson, Dom Sibley, Ben Stokes, Mark Wood

England will be looking to extend their winning streak against struggling Sri Lanka when the Twenty20 series begins on Wednesday in Cardiff.

The three matches between the nations provide an opportunity to continue building towards this year's T20 World Cup, though the hosts are without two key players due to injuries.

Fast bowler Jofra Archer is sidelined after surgery on his right elbow, while Ben Stokes is not yet ready to return to England duty following a broken finger. However, the all-rounder is playing again for Durham, suggesting an international comeback is not too far away.

Reece Topley is another to be ruled out of action, with England opting for David Willey as an alternative left-arm bowling option. Jonny Bairstow and Dawid Malan have been injury doubts ahead of the opening fixture, though captain Eoin Morgan said on Tuesday he expects both to be available.

England's limited-overs skipper was also asked again about the possibility of a return for Alex Hales, with the batsman having not played for England since being withdrawn from the 50-over squad just prior to the 2019 World Cup.

"There are conversations to be had between Alex, myself and the coach and potentially a few of the players," Morgan told the media. "Trying to get those happening in Covid times has been an issue. They will happen at some stage."

England have won three on the spin against Sri Lanka, who have been beaten in nine of their last 10 completed outings in T20 cricket. Their solitary win during the miserable run came against West Indies in March.

In that same month, England lost a hard-fought series in India, going down 3-2 to Virat Kohli's side. Bairstow is one of a number of players back in the fold after heading home from the Indian Premier League earlier than originally scheduled once the tournament was halted due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The hosts have an unblemished record at Sophia Gardens in T20 action too, winning all six games played there. This will be the first time they have hosted Sri Lanka at the venue.


Jonny be good! 

After isolating upon his return from India, Bairstow has been in outstanding form in the domestic T20 competition, the Vitality Blast.

The right-handed batsman has made 295 runs in four outings for Yorkshire, including hitting 112 against Worcestershire when needing a runner for half of his innings due to an injured ankle. Still, there is little need to move when you can hit boundaries – he has managed 26 fours and 18 sixes while scoring at a strike-rate of 175.59 runs per 100 deliveries while in action for his county in that competition.

Opportunity knocks

Chris Woakes is back for England, having not featured in a T20 at international level since November 2015. Like Willey, he will hope to make the most of any opportunity that comes his way in the series, which sees two games staged in the Welsh capital before concluding at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton.

Sri Lanka, too, have some fresh faces: Charith Asalanka, Dhananjaya Lakshan and Ishan Jayaratne have been included in a 24-man squad for both this series and the three one-dayers that follow. The tourists are without former captain Angelo Mathews, however.

Key series facts

- England lost their most recent men's T20I on home soil, against Australia in September 2020; however, the last time they lost two consecutive such matches at home was in August 2013.

- Since the beginning of 2020, Sri Lanka have the second lowest bowling dot-ball percentage (38.3 per cent) of any Test-playing country in the powerplay overs in men’s T20Is (Afghanistan 37.7 per cent).

- Sri Lanka have scored just 53.6 per cent of their runs from boundaries in powerplay overs in T20 games since the beginning of 2020, the lowest rate of any Test-playing country in that time.

- Morgan (201) needs just 13 runs to become the highest run-scorer in men's T20 clashes between England and Sri Lanka (Mahela Jayawardene – 213).

- Chris Jordan (12) needs just two wickets to become the highest wicket-taker in men's T20 games involving England and Sri Lanka (Lasith Malinga – 13).

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