Joe Root is being urged to stay as leader as preparations continue for the fourth Test to be played in Sydney despite the rapid spread of Covid across NSW.
While Scott Boland could get a new test as Australian voters consider their renewed bowling shares.
Here’s all the latest Ashes news, including Thursday morning’s news that England coach Chris Silverwood will miss the fourth Test after being considered a Covid close contact.
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ROD BACK TO BE BUT A DIFFERENT STORY FOR SILVERWOOD
They could have lost the ashes within 12 days, but Root still has the backing of the ECB and his teammates.
However, coach Silverwood is likely on loan, according to The Telegraphs Nick Hoult.
Root, who totaled an astonishing 1708 runs at 61 in 2021, met with ECB chief Tom Harrison on Wednesday, and during their meeting he was “encouraged to go ahead and asked what help he needs”.
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Hoult reports that Root wants to continue as captain, but with two more difficult tests next month, it is no coincidence that he will continue the role in the longer term.
Their meeting took place before cricket director Ashley Giles returns Down Under for the fourth Test after traveling back for Christmas.
Giles, who made the decision to fire Ed Smith as lead selector, will determine Silverwood’s future.
While the future of Root in the team and the captain looks more secure, largely due to the lack of real opportunities in the team and outside of it, the same cannot be said about Silverwood.
The former English bowler has taken the head of criticism as head coach and sole pick.
With accountability likely to be required, it may be a case of Giles feeding Silverwood to the wolves to ease the pressure rising on his shoulders.
Former Test cricketer Mark Butcher has claimed that Silverwood’s existing power in the English set-up is “nonsense”, as he is also the head pick as well as head coach.
“He has gained an extraordinary amount of power as he is also the chief voter, which is complete nonsense,” Butcher said Sky Sports news.
“It simply came to our notice then. Whether the message from him is now beginning to fall on deaf ears in the locker room is something only they know in there.
“It would not surprise me at all if there is a change at the top.”
Silverwood’s ability to turn around the sinking ship will not be helped by the fact that he has been rubbed out of the fourth test after being considered a Covid close contact.
There have now been seven positive Covid tests in the tournament party on a list that includes assistants Jeetan Patel and Jon Lewis.
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England all-rounder Chris Woakes said Root “absolutely” retained the backing of the squad. The same feeling could not be shared with Silverwood.
“Who am I to talk about the future of people other than my own, to be brutally honest,” Woakes said. “So, yes, I think we have two really important matches on the way. We want to show a lot of character, a lot of struggle. We want to put a little pride back in wearing the badge that we have certainly tried in this series, but we have to try even harder and fix it. The group of players, management and staff we have out here have the backing of the players to hopefully fix things, especially over the next two games. “
COVID WILL NOT STOP SCG TEST WHEN AUSSIANS BEGIN SELECTION DILEMMA
Covid cases continue to rise steeply, but the fourth test continues as planned, leaving Roots’ English side two-test to restore some dignity and save some reputation.
NSW registered more than 11,000 cases Wednesday morning, and that number is expected to rise over the coming days.
Despite the inherent risk of moving the cricket festival to Sydney, Cricket Australia boss Nick Hockley was adamant on Christmas Day that the plan remained that the fourth Test should continue as planned despite NSW Heath’s current laws.
As it turns out, all Covid-close contacts must be isolated for seven days in NSW, thereby increasing the effort should a member of the tournament party get in touch.
Still, it is widely believed that the rules will be scrapped in the coming days because it rubs every member of society, including vital health services.
Australian chief cricket correspondent Peter Lalor confirmed it was full steam ahead of the SCG Test, which kicks off on 5 January.
“We will go to Sydney as planned,” Lalor said in an interview with SEN.
“I had a word for Cricket Australia this morning (Tuesday) … they are determined to play in Sydney and they will play in Sydney and I admire them for this.
“Cricket Australia gets a lot of criticism for the things they do and fair enough in many cases, but in this situation they deserve praise for making the hard yards on those trips.
“Nothing would have been easier than limiting this trip to two places or a venue or doing, as everyone suggested yesterday (Monday), ‘You can not go to Sydney, you can not go to Hobart, stay in Melbourne’.
“Yes, you could stay in Melbourne and life would be easier, it would be more affordable and probably it would be even more sensible, but cricket for people you can see how important it is in this experience here at MCG during the race of the last three days.
“It’s been exciting to hear the audience engage in the test match this way, and people in all states should get this. I’m so sorry Perth.”
MCG hero Scott Boland is still in the competition to play in Sydney.
With Josh Hazlewood and Jhye Richardson likely capable of the fourth Test, Australia’s selectors face a pickle that the fast-track can pick for SCG.
Hazlewood has missed the last two Tests but is believed to be pushing for a SCG return.
That leaves Australia’s selectors in a difficult predicament in terms of how to select Boland, who took the incredible 6-7 figures in England’s second round to win the Johnny Mullagh medal, for the test.
News Corp reports that voters believe Boland may have the same destructive influence on the typically bland SCG tire that left Australia frustrated during their draw against India last summer.
Left-arm bowler Mitchell Starc, who has returned to something close to his best bowling, is the only fast-forward to have played all three Tests for Australia.
It is believed that voters are considering whether to rest Starc ahead of the second pink ball test in Hobart.