England have responded to Ollie Pope’s series-ending Ashes injury with a radical shake-up of their team for the third Test at Headingley on Thursday that sees a promotion to No. 3 for Harry Brook.
Moeen Ali has been recalled after missing the second Test with a finger injury, with Chris Woakes and Mark Wood also included at the expense of James Anderson and Josh Tongue, who are rested.
Pope, the vice captain, will miss the remainder of the summer after dislocating his shoulder in the second-Test defeat at Lord’s. Rather than replace Pope with the spare batsman in the squad, Dan Lawrence, England have decided to rejig the balance of their bowling attack.
Brook will move up to first drop for the first time in his Test career, while captain Ben Stokes, a centurion at Lord’s, and wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow will move up a place in the order. Brook has not batted at No. 3 since 2018 in the County Championship and averages just 22.2 in the position.
A gamble on Brook
Brook’s promotion is a gamble. His success for Yorkshire in first-class cricket has largely come in the middle order and, while he made a promising start to the series, he was troubled by Australia’s short-ball ploy at Lord’s. By moving him up two places, it allows Joe Root to remain in his preferred No. 4 position.
Moeen will come into the side for Pope, batting at No. 7 and providing the front-line spin option that England did not have at Lord’s. Of the bowling attack at Lord’s, Anderson and Tongue are rested, and replaced like-for-like by the experienced Chris Woakes and Mark Wood.
Anderson has played the first two Tests but picked up just three wickets, while Tongue made a huge impression on Ashes debut at Lord’s (picking up David Warner and Steve Smith twice each), but bowled 44 overs and has a history of injury. Both men should expect to return to the XI for the fourth Test at Old Trafford later this month.
Wood, who has not played Test cricket this year, missed the Lord’s Test with a mild elbow complaint and will undergo a fitness test on the eve of the game. England expect him to come through it strongly, however.
The Headingley pitch appears green and, according to Root, has “plenty of live grass on it”, which should suit Woakes, who is in line to play his first Test since March 2021 and first under Stokes and coach Brendon McCullum. Having a four-man pace attack also allows England to explore the telegraphed bouncer strategy that worked so well in the second innings at Lord’s, when the last eight Australian wickets fell to short balls.
Pope’s injury might have been an opportunity to recall Ben Foakes, who was left out for Bairstow ahead of the series, but England have opted instead to pack the side with bowling options.
The selection of four seamers and Moeen alongside Stokes suggests that the captain’s contribution with the ball will be limited. He bowled an epic 12-over spell on Sunday — saying afterwards that he wanted to stop at 11 but continued because of a superstitious dislike of odd numbers — but is troubled by chronic tendonitis in his knee. He may be fit to bowl the occasional spell, but his primary focus will be building on his return to batting form at Lord’s.
The Daily Telegraph in London
■ England vs Australia, Day I of third Test, 3.30pm IST, live on Sony Sports Network