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Ashes: England braced for injury setback with Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler set to miss Fifth Test

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  • Ben Stokes
    Ben Stokes
    Cricketer (born 1991)
  • Jos Buttler
    Jos Buttler
    English cricketer

England increasingly resemble the walking wounded after a bruising couple of days in Sydney, and are bracing themselves to be without both Jos Buttler and perhaps Ben Stokes for the final Test of the Ashes series in Hobart.

On Friday, both Buttler and Stokes batted through injuries picked up on the second day - but their tours could be over.

Stokes battled hard to make 66 despite having a suspected side strain, which is yet to have any formal assessment. It seems certain that he will not bowl again in the series and there is major concern that any further batting – he played some aggressive strokes on Day 3 – would worsen the issue.

Buttler has had a scan on a left index finger injury – picked up in the field on Thursday – that is likely to prevent him keeping in Australia’s second innings here, and end his tour. Buttler was dismissed tamely for a duck, England’s second of the day, but was struggling to grip the bat.

Both men appear highly unlikely to be available for Hobart.

To make matters worse, centurion Jonny Bairstow is also likely to become an injury doubt after taking a nasty blow to the thumb from Pat Cummins when on 60. He admitted to being in some pain, and did not know whether he would be able to keep if required in Buttler’s place.

“It takes quite a bit to get me off the park,” said Bairstow. “Yes, it was sore but the circumstances of the game, it was one of those where it was a decision I made to stay out there. The medics can give you advice but you’re playing in an Ashes Test match, New Year’s Test, Pink Test match at Sydney in front of a crowd, it’s going to take a lot to get you away from that.”

Ollie Pope, who was dropped for Bairstow in Melbourne last week, spent time this afternoon practicing his wicket-keeping in readiness to come on as a substitute in the second innings.

As a result, England are working to get Sam Billings, who is in Australia playing for the Sydney Thunder in the Big Bash League, to stay on as cover, rather than returning to the UK to prepare for the T20 tour of West Indies later this month.

Other BBL players such as James Vince have already flown back to the UK in preparation for the West Indies tour, and spare batters Rory Burns, Dan Lawrence and Pope should mean they have enough cover if all three of Buttler, Stokes and Bairstow are ruled out.

The likes of Ben Duckett remains a capped option from the BBL, or Sam Robson and Mark Stoneman in grade cricket, if required.

Billings has been a regular member of both white-ball squads for almost seven years, but is yet to play Test cricket. This summer, he was twice called up as a reserve, at Lord’s and the Oval. There is every chance that he makes his Test debut in a much-changed England side in the Bellerive Oval day-nighter.

He is then expected to travel to Barbados for the T20 tour.

Getting Billings into the camp is unlikely to be too complicated, given he has been living in a “Covid-secure environment” at the BBL with Sydney Thunder. His final game for Thunder was last night in Queensland; he scored an unbeaten 19 to see his side to victory.

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