England fret over availability of middle order trio for Hobart

England’s bruised middle order trio of Ben Stokes, Jonny Bairstow and Jos Buttler will soldier on to help their team in the battle to save the fourth Ashes Test against Australia but appear doubtful for the final match in Hobart.

Stokes suffered a side strain in the current Sydney Test while Bairstow, who smashed the only century by an England batsman in the series, and Jos Buttler sustained painful blows to their fingers while batting.

All three had scans on Saturday but caretaker coach Graham Thorpe said the trio would bat on Sunday when the visitors, set a daunting target of 388, begin day five on 30 for no loss at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

“I’m sure the lads will take whatever they need to take to get themselves in a position where they’re capable of performing tomorrow,” Thorpe, in charge while head coach Chris Silverwood completes his COVID-19 isolation, told reporters.

“So they’ll all bat and they will do their very best.”

England have already added Sam Billing to their squad and Thorpe confirmed the uncertainty around the availability of the injured trio.

“It’s possible (that the three players could miss the next test), but we will be assessing all of that at the end of the game.

“Obviously, Sam has been called into the group and that’s obviously a good indicator of some of the concerns we have with the injuries.”

England will have to conjure something special to deny Australia a 4-0 lead in the five-Test series and Thorpe said the batsmen should take a leaf out of Bairstow’s brave first-innings hundred despite a thumb injury.

“…for players to be able to stay in the team as well, you have to perform,” the former test player said.

“Jonny played fantastically well showing great courage and skill. That’s the same thing which we want to see again in our second innings and I thought it was a good start tonight.

“We need to have a lot more of it again tomorrow.”

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