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The Cricketer's writers have their say on team selection ahead of the fourth Ashes Test

The Ashes may be over as a contest but there is still much to play for when the series resumes in Melbourne on Boxing Day.

Joe Root, Trevor Bayliss and the England selectors will want to see encouragement for the future, so will they make tweaks to the team?

The Cricketer's writers have their say on what they'd like to see and what they believe will happen at the MCG.


England rejected the chance to freshen things up at 2-0 down, now their hand is possibly going to be forced. I see little point in making Stuart Broad battle on with his knee injury. It’s not as if he’s tearing through the Australians.

Give Mark Wood a chance (the possibility of Liam Plunkett being drafted in seems remote, which is a shame… yes, I know he only played two first-class games last summer, blah, blah). Craig Overton’s cracked rib will probably see him be put on ice after a respectable introduction to Test cricket. 

If they can manage to resist the claims of Jake Ball, chuck Tom Curran in. OK, he’s not much quicker than Overton, but he oozes confidence and charisma. The thought that he may not make much of an impression on an Ashes series in Australia will never have occurred to him.

Ben Foakes is a fine batsman, but they will likely persist with the batting unit, praying that James Vince becomes more consistent, and Mark Stoneman can convert a promising start into three figures at last. And, crucially, that Joe Root and even more pivotally, Alastair Cook, can finally find some form. 

I cannot see them dispensing with Moeen Ali, as ordinary as he has been thus far (the cut finger a factor, of course). Mason Crane may be given a game at the SCG, a la Scott Borthwick there years ago. 

Alastair Cook has gone through a tough spell of form


To talk about having no meaningful warm-up games is not just old-timers like Geoff Boycott having a moan. It is an act of short-sightedness by home boards during Test series, and if we had a world governing body worthy of the name, they would have clamped down on it and introduced minimum requirements.
But, as it is, England have little option but to take a bit of a punt on Mason Crane in a Test. Unless Moeen Ali can somehow categorically prove his spinning finger is up to turning the ball, or the pitch somehow demands four seamers, then I would go for Crane at Melbourne. 
The two things stopping England from blooding Crane now would be the Simon Kerrigan experience of The Oval in 2013, and the thought that he would have more assistance from the pitch at the SCG. But they are different bowlers, and different men. Craig Overton looks unlikely to be fit, which might just save Stuart Broad, but he should lose the new ball to Chris Woakes, in my view.
Whether Mark Wood comes in depends on whether he is bowling quickly enough to make a difference. The Lions squad have gone home for Christmas, so it is not as if there are bucketloads of alternatives.
Alastair Cook stays, on the basis that he often looks out of form but still comes good. James Vince drank stylishly in the last-chance saloon at Perth, though I have my reservations. I would consider bringing in Ben Foakes - but only with the bat, mind.

Could Mason Crane get a look-in?


Even when England do put on a few runs, Australia come back strong and make the tourists’ effort look lousy.
James Vince was momentarily back in the runs before Mitchell Starc produced a howling delivery from another dimension. Whether or not he is the long-term solution for England at No.3, is Gary Ballance really a better option? 
You could make the argument for dropping Vince, bringing Ben Foakes in as a batsman and shuffling everyone up a place. But then you have the Root at No.3 or No.4 conundrum… perhaps not something the skipper needs right now.
Moeen has comprehensively lost the battle of the spinners and his batting has not been there to cover up a poor series with the ball. It would be a big call to drop him but England must be itching to see if Mason Crane can live up to the hype.
Broad has been disappointing but – if he is fit – are England going to drop one of their senior players mid-series?
Craig Overton is injured and unlikely to play in the Boxing Day Test. Tom Curran could be the answer. He is untested but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.