Jason Roy has been dropped for the final Ashes Test, with England captain Joe Root suggesting others might be playing for their places at The Oval.
Ben Stokes’ shoulder injury has forced a reshuffle in the side, with fellow all-rounder Sam Curran recalled at Roy’s expense and Chris Woakes coming in for Craig Overton.
England can still salvage a series draw and will be eager to stop Australia turning their unassailable 2-1 lead into a first series win on these shores since 2001.
Standing Roy down at his home ground was not how England envisaged their experiment with the World Cup-winning batsman ending but an average of 18.70 in his five Tests, with a top score of 31 against Australia, left him vulnerable. Roy faces an uncertain future in the red ball game as a result but whether he earns a second chance –either at opener or in the No 4 position he filled at Old Trafford – could depend on who succeeds head coach Trevor Bayliss, whose four-year reign ends after the series.
“Jason is the unfortunate one to miss out,” said Root, pictured, after explaining Stokes would effectively play as a specialist number four batsman.
“He is very aware of where he is at and what he needs to do to get himself in the best place to perform in Test cricket. He’s had an opportunity to come in and play Test cricket, get a feel for it, and it has not gone quite how he would have liked.
“But I’m sure he will go away and work extremely hard and come again. That is what you expect of guys when they get left out and I’m sure he will have that attitude and want to try to prove a point and get himself back into the side.”
Roy is far from alone in under-performing with the bat and serious questions have been asked of Joe Denly, Jonny Bairstow and Jos Buttler over the past few weeks. All three average fewer than 26 in the past four Tests, the kind of return that does not win Ashes series and which puts them firmly under the microscope.
Root’s captaincy has been queried, though there does not appear to be any appetite for change from within the England camp, and he made it clear his plans for the future do not have room for those who cannot raise their game.
“I think in terms of personnel things might change, as they have done for a while. We have to focus on the core group of players that can lead this team forward,” he said.
“In terms of my own captaincy I know the direction I want to take this team moving forward and it is about starting that now and not after this series. It is important we win this game and have a really strong winter and move forward as a group. You are playing for your country: that’s the fundamentals of it. We have got some very passionate guys who are very proud to represent England and however you motivate yourself, whether it’s getting yourself on a winter tour or trying to get yourself a hundred or five-for, it’s really important to harness that and take it forward. But, ultimately, being part of a national team is a carrot in itself.”
Australia have recalled all-rounder Mitch Marsh as they look to win the Ashes in style with a “grand final” at The Oval. The tourists already know they will be lifting the urn at the end of the series but are fully focused on turning their 2-1 lead into a 3-1 victory.
Marsh will get the chance to help them finish the job, with his ability to bolster the seam attack earning him a first appearance of the series in place of batsman Travis Head.
“We’re very hungry for this, we’ve already spoken about the fact that we came here to win the Ashes not just retain them,” said captain Tim Paine.
“Last week’s result was brilliant and we played very well but all our guys are fully aware this Test is bigger than that one. This is our grand final.”
Paine offered some sympathy to Root, who is under scrutiny after unsuccessful campaigns against Australia at home and away. He said: “We know Joe is a fantastic cricketer, averaging close to 50, so I don’t understand why he’s under so much scrutiny. We know how competitive he is and we know he’ll be looking to bounce back this week.”