England’s hopes of reclaiming the Ashes have been rocked by the revelation that Jimmy Anderson will play no further part in the five-Test series.
The news came as the two Australians facing off for a spot in the line-up were involved in a dramatic mix-up in the three-day clash with Derbyshire.
The hosts had been confident Anderson, boasting 575 wickets from 149 Tests, would return from a recurring calf injury for his home Test at Old Trafford that starts on Wednesday.
But the 37-year-old has suffered a fresh setback and been ruled out of the fourth and fifth Tests.
It is possible Anderson’s last Test will be the Edgbaston series opener, when he left the field after delivering just four overs on day one.
Anderson delivered 29 overs for Lancashire against Durham in this week’s second XI fixture, attempting to prove his fitness but instead tweaking the same troublesome muscle that has ruined his home summer.
England’s selectors have added seamer Craig Overton, who featured in the 2017-18 Ashes in Australia, to what is now a 13-man squad.
Chris Woakes, who struggled in the third Test, was expected to make way for Anderson after struggling with ball and bat in Leeds.
If England still want to make a change to the XI that levelled the series then Overton and left-armer Sam Curran, who was England’s 12th man for the third Test, are the other pace options in their squad
Selectors have stuck with out-of-form batsmen Jason Roy and Jos Buttler, although Joe Root may opt to reshuffle his order.
On Saturday morning (AEST) Australia’s Usman Khawaja and Marcus Harris’ selection showdown in Derby ended in heartbreak for the latter, when he was run out after a calamitous mix up between the pair.
Stand-in skipper Khawaja was promoted to open in this week’s three-day clash with Derbyshire after batting at first drop in the first three Tests.
Dropping Harris or Khawaja looms as the most likely option for selectors mulling how to accommodate Steve Smith’s return at Old Trafford, where the five-Test series continues on Wednesday.
Coach Justin Langer and chairman of selectors Trevor Hohns will consider more than one innings when making the call but captain Tim Paine, who has been rested from this tour game, admitted it was important players keep their “name up in front of the selectors” by excelling in Derby.
Khawaja, boasting an average of 96.8 from seven Test innings at the top of the order, appears in the box seat to partner David Warner next week.
The veteran, having offered a sharp caught-and-bowled chance on 15, was 68 not out at lunch on Friday after marching his team to 1-169 in response to Derbyshire’s 172.
Khawaja and Harris shared a 106-run opening stand, comfortably higher than anything Australia have managed in the first three Tests against England.
It was snapped in jarring fashion early on day two when Harris, on 64, took off for a quick single after pushing the ball to the off side.
Khawaja remained at the non-striker’s end as a direct hit from Dustin Melton, on first-class debut, found Harris well short of his ground.
Harris trudged off briskly and without fuss as a forlorn Khawaja looked skyward.
The small crowd hoped that dismissal would bring Smith, playing his first match since being struck on the neck by a Jofra Archer bouncer at Lord’s, to the crease but Mitch Marsh shuffled down the stairs and was unbeaten on 24 at the meal break.
The challenge presented by Derbyshire does not resemble that awaiting in Manchester, where Stuart Broad and Jofra Archer will spearhead a proven and potent pace attack.
But Paine, speaking after day one, was thoroughly impressed with both openers.
“If you bowl a bad ball to Harry, he puts it away and I think that puts guys under pressure,” Paine said. “We know that Harry’s got Test runs in him.
“He (Khawaja) played really well again … he’s a class player.
“He’s got some really good starts in the Test innings. He’s a little bit frustrated himself that he hasn’t been able to turn them into big scores, like he normally does.”
England’s 13-man squad for fourth Test: Jason Roy, Rory Burns, Joe Root (capt), Joe Denly, Ben Stokes, Jonny Bairstow, Jos Buttler, Chris Woakes, Jofra Archer, Stuart Broad, Jack Leach, Sam Curran, Craig Overton.