Spinner Crane set for Test bow in Ashes finale

Sports | 3 Jan 2018

Leg-spinner Mason Crane's experience playing in Sydney may prove the clincher to earn him a debut as England try to salvage their Ashes series with a win over Australia in the final Test starting tomorrow.

Trailing 3-0 and the Ashes lost, England are considering a possible team change for the fifth Test with Moeen Ali's place under threat and Crane pushing for his first cap. Moeen has played 48 Tests and came to Australia as an accomplished all-rounder but he has under-performed, taking only three wickets and averaging 19 with the bat.

The Sydney Cricket Ground has a reputation as a turning wicket, enhancing Crane's chances of playing.

The 20-year-old Hampshire leggie also boasts a five-wicket haul playing at the famous ground for New South Wales last year.

Crane, who was impressing in Sydney club cricket, was called up by NSW and took five wickets in the Sheffield Shield victory against South Australia.

"With the series lost it gives us the opportunity to look at some different people," England coach Trevor Bayliss said.

Asked if Crane was ready for Test cricket, Bayliss added: "There's maybe no time like the present to find out."

England outplayed Australia for large tracts of last week's fourth Test in Melbourne only for Steve Smith to bat out the entire last day with an unbeaten century for a draw.

Prior to Melbourne, experienced pair Alastair Cook and Stuart Broad were having a lean series and under pressure for their spots. But Cook carried his bat with an unbeaten 244 in the highest Test score at the Melbourne Cricket Ground by an overseas player, while Broad bounced back to form with five wickets in the match.

But to break through in Sydney, where they have won twice in the last four Ashes Tests, England must find a way of shackling the freescoring Smith.

Smith has enjoyed a phenomenal series, scoring three centuries to amass 604 runs in six innings at an astonishing average of 151.

The Australia skipper, who averages 63.55 in his 60 Tests, is now in outright second place for the highest-ever ICC ranking points behind Don Bradman.


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