England facing late call over Jonny Bairstow fitness for final Ashes Test in Hobart

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England facing late call over Jonny Bairstow fitness for final Ashes Test in Hobart
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  • Jonny Bairstow
    Jonny Bairstow
    English cricketer (born 1989)
  • Ben Stokes
    Ben Stokes
    Cricketer (born 1991)

England will leave it late to decide whether Jonny Bairstow will join Ben Stokes in playing through the pain barrier in the final Ashes Test in Hobart.

Stokes will play as a specialist batter in the day-night Test despite a side strain, but no decision has yet been made over Bairstow, who has batted in the nets in significant pain this week due to a cracked and heavily bruised right thumb.

Bairstow made 113 and 41 in Sydney, facing more balls than any other batter as England battled to save the game. It was his seventh Test century, but his first since November 2018 and one that keeps his long-form future alive.

While he is unsurprisingly keen to play, there is doubt over whether he can thrive through the pain. If he is unable to, Ollie Pope will return to the side having been dropped for Bairstow after two of the five Tests.

With jobs on the line among the coaching and playing group, England will make at least four changes, with Sam Billings coming in for his debut as wicketkeeper, replacing Jos Buttler, who will see a specialist now he is back in London with his broken finger likely to keep him out for at least six weeks.

Rory Burns is back at the top of the order in place of Haseeb Hameed, who has added a rib injury to a dreadful run of form that has seen him dismissed for single figures in six successive innings.

Ollie Robinson and Chris Woakes are also set to return to the attack in place of Jack Leach, who performed better in Sydney but was squeezed out by Stokes’ inability to bowl on a surface that looks very green, and James Anderson, whose final act as a Test cricketer in Australia (after five tours) will be blocking out the final over from Steve Smith to secure a draw.

Jonny Bairstow starred for England in Sydney but is nursing a cracked and heavily bruised right thumb (Getty Images)
Jonny Bairstow starred for England in Sydney but is nursing a cracked and heavily bruised right thumb (Getty Images)

Mark Wood, who will play his third straight Test, said England believed they could win to end the series on a high.

“In this last Test match we are here to win as well,” said Wood. "We haven’t done very well on this trip, but we have a chance to stand up and show some character.”

Australia have confirmed one change to their team, with Marcus Harris dropped for Travis Head, who returns at No5 after missing a Test due to Covid-19. That means Usman Khawaja, a twin centurion in Sydney, moves up to open the batting.

Another change is possible, with Scott Boland – who has 14 wickets at 8.64 in his two Tests – a doubt, needing to get through one last fitness test in the morning.

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