Ashes: England prefer Leach to Broad and bat first against Australia


oe Root chose to bat first upon winning the toss in the First Ashes Test at the Gabba, and made another big call in leaving Stuart Broad out for Jack Leach.

Australia’s new captain Pat Cummins said he would also have batted first on a green looking pitch with some overhead conditions about.

“We gave it a good amount of thought,” said Joe Root, “there is a bit of live grass and some conditions about. We hope it might speed up and do a bit more on the second or third day.”

Leach’s selection meant England went in without either James Anderson or Stuart Broad for the first time in 37 Ashes Tests, dating back to 2006. England have only gone in without either three times in all Tests since 2008.

“We are blessed with a very good seam attack, and very good squad out here and it was a very difficult decision to make,” said Root. “There’s five Test matches and all those guys will be wanting to play a big part and it’s important they’re ready to go.”

England are being careful with Anderson and Broad as they manage their calves in the autumn of their careers.

England punchily declared that Anderson was fit to play in Brisbane, but that he is being held back for the Second Test, a day-nighter in Adelaide. England and Anderson have bad memories of him pulling up four overs into the 2019 Ashes at Edgbaston.

Broad has not played for four months due to a calf tear suffered in the First Test against England. He said himself that he only expects to play one of the first two Tests of the series.

The two teams

Australia: Warner, Harris, Labuschagne, Smith, Head, Green, Carey (wk), Cummins (c), Starc, Hazlewood, Lyon

England: Burns, Hameed, Malan, Root (c), Stokes, Pope, Buttler (wk), Woakes, Robinson, Wood, Leach

This is the first time in 37 Ashes Tests, dating back to 2006, that England have been without either man, and just the fourth time in all Tests since 2008. Given the pitch has a green tinge, it is an even bolder call.

The pressure is therefore on Chris Woakes, Ollie Robinson and Mark Wood, the frontline seamers, with ben Stokes only expected to have a limited workload on his return to Test cricket for the first time since March. Leach will be expected to keep the run-rate down in unhelpful conditions.

England confirmed yesterday that Ollie Pope had beaten the more experienced Jonny Bairstow to the No6 spot in the batting order.

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