England are considering starting their Ashes campaign without both their all-time leading wicket-takers after naming a 12-man squad this morning.
It was confirmed James Anderson is rested for the opening Ashes Test and it is a choice between Stuart Broad or Jack Leach for the final place in the XI.
Ollie Pope replaces Jonny Bairstow for the last batting position as England opt for potential over experience.
The Gabba pitch is green and England are tempted to pick five seamers but have given themselves the option of the left-arm spinner as well, recognising their attack lacks variety.
If Leach plays, Telegraph Sport understands it will be at the expense of Broad and would be the first time for five years that England have gone into a Test without him and Anderson in the team.
The last time was in Dhaka, in October 2016, when Anderson was injured and England picked three spinners on a turning pitch. They have played 124 Tests together since they were picked in Wellington in 2008. But it is not a surprise England are considering taking a different course for this game. Broad is returning after a long lay off from an ankle injury and Anderson is being held back for the Adelaide pink ball Test.
Anderson is 39 and Broad 35 and both need bowling to build up their stamina for Test cricket but the wet start to England’s tour significantly limited their preparation time. It also a sign the mantle has passed from Broad to Ollie Robinson as first choice pick for the new ball. Robinson was the breakthrough star of the summer while Broad has taken just ten wickets this year in six Tests.
Anderson arrived on tour with a niggle in his calf that prevented him bowling for two weeks. He has fully recovered and bowled a long spell in the nets in Brisbane on Tuesday and on Monday but England want him fully fit for the two day-night matches.
Cricket Australia stripped Perth of the fifth Test on Monday and put the match out to tender on Tuesday to the other states but with the condition it has to be a floodlit game.
“Jimmy is fit to play, and is not carrying an injury. With five Tests in six weeks the plan was to get him ready for the second Test in Adelaide,” said an England spokesman.
“With the limited build-up we have had so far on the tour, both him and the management didn’t want to take the risk of him playing after what had happened in 2019 at Edgbaston, when he broke down on the first morning. He bowled at full capacity yesterday for just short of an hour and was in a good place physically.”
Bairstow is dropped after playing all four Tests against India last summer when, despite some good starts, he made only one half century and failed to make the big score that would have ensured a decent run in the team.
Pope played at the Oval when Bairstow took the gloves in place of Jos Buttler, who was on paternity leave, and scored 81.
But when Buttler returned for the Old Trafford Test England decided to stick with Bairstow over Pope, although the match was ultimately cancelled due to the Covid outbreak among the India backroom team.
Bairstow has struggled for touch and to adapt since he arrived in Australia from the Twenty20 World Cup, while Pope has benefitted from being here longer and the extra time to adjust. Bairstow was out first ball in the intra-squad warm up game last week.
Pope has long been tipped as an heir to Joe Root’s status as England’s best batsman but a combination of two severe shoulder injuries and lack of consistency have held him back. The true pitches in Australia should suit his game with less lateral movement and pace on the ball but he is sure to face a proper short ball examination for the first time with the Australia track certain to test his nerve with the bouncer.