Sydney: England have concerns over the fitness of spinner Monty Panesar but wicketkeeper Matt Prior will not return to the team for the fifth Ashes Test against Australia, captain Alastair Cook said on Thursday.
The tourists, 0-4 down in the five-match series, are expected to make changes before they fight to restore some pride against a rampant Australia at the Sydney Cricket Ground, starting on Friday.
“When you lose games of cricket, and you lose they way we have, it’s a tough place to be as a captain, certainly when you come on a big tour,” Cook said.
“It does affect people, make no mistake about it. It hurts me, but it is what it is.
“All the criticism you get when you lose it’s always exaggerated and it’s kind of hyperbole when you win because that’s the way the media work.
“For me to say I am 100 per cent right would be wrong, but I am proud of the way I’ve handled myself in this series.
“But I do know that I have a hell of a lot to learn as a player, as a captain, and I hope we can put in a good performance in this Test match,” he added.
The SCG wicket has a greener tinge than usual for a Test match but head groundsman Tom Parker believes it will still provide the traditional turn for spinners on the last couple of days of the Test.
With England’s best spinner Graeme Swann having retired after the Ashes were relinquished after the third Test in Perth, Panesar would have been expected to be have been part of the side.
Leg-spinner Scott Borthwick, paceman Boyd Rankin and Gary Ballance have all been touted to make their Test debuts in the match at the expense of Panesar, Tim Bresnan and Michael Carberry, though, and Cook did not deny it might happen. “I think it’s possible yes,” he told a news conference when asked if there might be three debutants. “We need to assess Monty after training today.
“He’s had a bit of a sore calf from yesterday but we will see how he pulls through training today and make a decision on him either today or tomorrow.
“With all these injuries you have to wait and see how they pull up, especially with muscle strains.”
Calls for the return of Prior, who was dropped for 24-year-old Jonny Bairstow for the fourth Test, had an unlikely cheerleader when Australia captain Michael Clarke presented the case for the experienced wicketkeeper on Thursday.
Cook, though, said the veteran of 72 Tests needed to get back to domestic cricket and start producing runs again if he wanted to force his way back into the side.