England has dropped our of form wicketkeeper Matt Prior for the Boxing Day Ashes Test at the MCG, handing over the gloves to back-up keeper-batsman Jonny Bairstow.
On a cloudy morning at the MCG, Australian captain Michael Clarke won the toss and chose to bowl, putting the England batsman straight into the firing line in front of a massive crowd.
England made two changes to its line-up for the Test, with Prior making way following the retirement of off spinnger Graeme Swann. Australia named an unchanged line-up.
Yesterday, it seemed Prior may have been given advanced warning of his fate, given he gave his back-up gloveman Jonny Bairstow a big hug after the pair completed a catching session at the MCG.
Prior is averaging under 20 with the bat in the series. The 31-year-old made crucial mistakes behind the stumps in the third Test in Perth.
Bairstow, 24, has played 12 Tests including England’s home Ashes series win in August 2013.
Left-arm slow bowler Monty Panesar is set to play his 50th Test and second match of the series.
Swann’s seven wickets at 80.00 meant the 34-year-old was possibly facing the axe for Melbourne anyway.
“His selection would’ve been talked about but the question is irrelevant now because he was no longer involved by the time we started talking about selection for this game,” Cook said.
Pace spearhead Stuart Broad – the England player Aussie fans love to hate – has trained well despite suffering a foot injury in the Perth Test.
It’s a rare piece of good news for Cook who celebrated his 29th birthday on Christmas Day. Cook says losing the Ashes has forced him to assess his own captaincy skills.
“We’d won against New Zealand, won the Ashes at home and won away in India, which is a great achievement,” Cook said.
“But maybe that papered over some of the cracks in my captaincy as well.”
Swann’s swipe at some international players who “have no idea how far up their own backsides they are” has not helped.
The comments were widely interpreted as an attack on England batsman Kevin Pietersen.
Pietersen says he’s been called worse by Aussie crowds in recent weeks, but Swann and Cook both say it’s not a case of friendly fire.
“A phone call to Swannie reassured me very quickly that it wasn’t at all about any of the England players,” Cook said.
“Losing the Ashes and with Swannie going as well, it has been a different week.”