Mason Crane to make England debut in final Ashes Test
20-year-old leg spinner replaces injured Chris Woakes in Sydney as Moeen survives
Mason Crane will make his England debut in the final Ashes Test in Sydney. Photograph: William West/Afp
Crane’s remarkably swift ascent has been widely predicted since the Melbourne Test. The surprise – and disappointment for England – comes from the fact that Crane will replace Chris Woakes, rather than the obvious candidates after Melbourne, Tom Curran or Moeen Ali.
Woakes has a side strain, one of the worst injuries for a fast bowler, and was therefore unavailable for selection even before the results of his scan were known. The selectors have therefore been spared having to decide between Curran and the out-of form Moeen, who has never been dropped in his 48-test career.
“It was important for us to ensure that he [WOAKES]would not be out for a long time,” said Root, who is also mindful that Woakes had a similar injury last year. “Hopefully he will be fit for the one-dayers.”
Over the last week Crane has been earmarked to play in Sydney. “The way he has conducted himself has been outstanding,” said Root. “As a young man he has been applying himself and absorbing himself in the tour.”
“He is right up for it and will not back down from any challenge. He should be a good option for this surface since it generally turns here. The pitch has dried out over the last 24 hours.”
Unlike several in the England side, Crane has played a first-class match at the SCG in New South Wales’ final fixture last season.
Root hinted that he might have retained Moeen in the side even if Woakes had been fit because of the nature of the pitch. “He has had a tough couple of games. But you don’t lose your ability in two matches. I’ve told him to relax and not to try too hard. He is at his best when he has fun.”
Australia’s selection issues are simpler than England’s and they centre on Mitchell Starc. Captain Steve Smith indicated that his triumvirate of pacemen would be reunited alongside one spinner, Nathan Lyon.
“Starc says he’s ready to go,” said Smith. “I’ve told him to make sure he’s completely fit. The break has helped to heal his heel and sometimes you have to take the player’s word. There’s a fair bit of grass out there so we’ll probably opt for one spinner.”
He added that that his side might see more grass in Melbourne next year. Smith’s assessment of the pitch for the fourth Test was similar to that of the ICC, which rated it as poor.
“It was a poor wicket. You’ve got to get the bowlers into the game. So it’s a wake-up call for them.”