SYDNEY (Reuters) – Usman Khawaja will replace Travis Head in Australia’s middle order for this week’s fourth Ashes test against England in the only change to the side that wrapped up the series in Melbourne last week, skipper Pat Cummins said on Tuesday.
Khawaja’s return for his first test since 2019 was expected after Head was ruled out by a positive COVID-19 test but the retention of pace bowler Scott Boland was something of a surprise.
Boland was considered a Melbourne specialist when he was handed his debut in the third test but the 32-year-old seized his opportunity with both hands.
His six for seven in the second innings helped Australia to a thumping innings and 14-run victory and earned him the chance to keep his spot in favour of Josh Hazlewood, who is still suffering from a side strain sustained in the first test.
“It’s no secret, if Joshy Hazlewood was available, he was going to play, he’s been a brilliant bowler for us for a long time,” Cummins told reporters at the Sydney Cricket Ground, where the match starts on Wednesday.
“It would have been a real shame to see Scotty not play this week after his efforts last week. It’s unfortunate for Joshy but I’m really glad (Scott) gets another crack out here.”
Cummins said Hazlewood would probably be fit to play in the fifth test in Hobart from Jan. 14-18.
There had been suggestions in local media that leg spinner Mitchell Swepson might be awarded his first test cap in a twin slow-bowling attack with Nathan Lyon.
Cummins, however, said he did not expect the SCG wicket to deteriorate sufficiently to make that a viable strategy.
“I don’t think anywhere in Australia that I’ve played in the last two years has dictated a two-spinner,” he added.
“He’s a class bowler and we’re itching to get him into the side one day. We think he will debut at some stage, most likely overseas.”
Australia lead the series 3-0 after wins in Brisbane, Adelaide and Melbourne.
Team: David Warner, Marcus Harris, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Usman Khawaja, Cameron Green, Alex Carey (wicketkeeper), Pat Cummins (captain), Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Scott Boland.
(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Christian Radnedge)