Ashes: England consider playing Bairstow through thumb injury as Stokes and Anderson assessed

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Ashes: England consider playing Bairstow through thumb injury as Stokes and Anderson assessed
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  • Ben Stokes
    Ben Stokes
    Cricketer (born 1991)
  • Jonny Bairstow
    Jonny Bairstow
    English cricketer (born 1989)
  • James Anderson
    English cricketer, born 1982

England train for the first time at Hobart’s Bellerive Oval on Wednesday, as they assess their walking wounded to pull together a team for Friday’s Fifth Ashes Test.

Jos Buttler has flown home with a “quite serious” broken left index finger, but Ben Stokes (side strain) and Jonny Bairstow (who has a crack and bad bruising at the tip of his right thumb) have remained on tour in the hope of playing the Test.

The pair faced the most balls as England saved the Fourth Test in Sydney by just a single wicket, but despite their all-round ambitions the best hope is to play as specialist batters.

Bairstow seems the more realistic candidate to play, but would need hiding in the field. Stokes would be in danger of doing longer-term damage to a side injury that is not as serious as was first feared when he pulled up bowling bouncers on day two.

England will not want to take unnecessary risks with their key all-format player, but he may take some persuading not to play, despite being in very clear pain as he batted in Sydney.

It is not just those two providing a headache for England. Ollie Robinson and Chris Woakes appear in contention to play after missing the Sydney Test with shoulder injuries, but will need to prove their fitness in training.

And all three frontline seamers who played in Sydney have reasons to be sore. Mark Wood has a bruised toe after a crunching yorker from Pat Cummins left him on his knees, while James Anderson and Stuart Broad both flagged in the second innings.

Anderson could be rested after playing three Tests in a row, but Wood is likely to saddle up once more.

As ever, Stokes’ inability to play a full role will affect the balance of England’s side, and put Jack Leach’s place in danger, despite his best performance of the series yet.

Sam Billings is likely to make his Test debut as wicketkeeper, ahead of Ollie Pope. If only one batting spot is available in the middle order, Pope would be competing with Dan Lawrence, who could offer some spin alongside Joe Root if Leach is squeezed out by the need for four seamers.

To complicate things further, Haseeb Hameed is facing the axe after six single-figure scores in a row. That would most likely mean a recall for Rory Burns just two matches after he was dropped and told to adjust his technique by Assistant Coach Graham Thorpe.

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