England may play Stokes, Bairstow only as batsmen in Hobart: Root

Jonathan Bairstow and Ben Stokes of England
Jonathan Bairstow and Ben Stokes of England
Image: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

England could play Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow purely as batsmen in the fifth and final Ashes Test against Australia this week, captain Joe Root said on Wednesday.

The tourists prevented a series whitewash with a hard-fought draw in the fourth Test in Sydney where all-rounder Stokes (side), wicketkeeper Jos Buttler (finger) and backup gloveman Bairstow (finger) sustained injuries.

With both Buttler and Bairstow unable to take the gloves for Australia's second innings in Sydney, Ollie Pope stepped in and took four catches behind the stumps.

Buttler has since returned home but Bairstow may not be fit enough to take his place.

“Certainly can pick Ben just as a batter, absolutely, and similarly with Jonny as well,” Root told reporters ahead of the Hobart Test, which starts on Friday.

“He's (Bairstow) been playing as a batter anyway. So I'd say we've got to just see where they're at, see what their bodies can handle.

“Jonny obviously has huge amounts of experience doing it. We need to see where he is at physically and then off the back of that we can we can make a decision.”

England have plucked Sam Billings out of the Big Bash League and added him to the squad as cover, and Root had no doubt he would perform well if given his Test debut in the pink-ball contest in Hobart.

“He brings in a lot of energy. Constantly smiling, he loves his cricket,” said Root.

“He's a great guy to have around the environment and I'm sure if he gets his opportunity he'll throw everything into his opportunity.”

After heavy losses in the first three matches saw Australia retain the urn, a gutsy display from England's bruised middle order and obdurate tail-enders salvaged the draw in Sydney and Root said they must show similar steel in the final match.

“On the back of three very difficult games where we've underperformed ... to come back and get something from that showed great amount of character, something for us to build on moving forward,” he added.

“We have to play like that more frequently throughout five days, not just on the last day when everything is sort of on the line but from ball one as well.”  — Reuters



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