Scott Boland will debut for Australia in the Boxing Day Test against England, after captain Pat Cummins confirmed on Christmas morning that the Victorian had received one of the most surprising call-ups in recent years.
Meanwhile, England have made four changes to the side that lost the second Test in Adelaide by 275 runs, with spinner Jack Leach among those recalled and out of form opener Rory Burns left out.
The 32-year old joins Cummins in replacing Michael Neser and Jhye Richardson from Australia’s comfortable win in the second Test in Adelaide, with the Western Australian joining Josh Hazlewood in being ruled out of the match at the MCG through injury.
According to Cummins, Boland’s outstanding record at the venue, where he has taken 91 wickets at 25.71 in 26 games for Victoria, was a ‘huge part’ of getting the nod over the omitted Neser.
“We earmarked him as a chance for here and the SCG in particular,” he said.
“We think his record is really well suited.”
“His record speaks for itself here in domestic cricket. Home ground, having someone fresh like him who can perform straightaway were the big factors.”
Calls to select Boland had been growing louder in recent days, with Sheffield Shield commentator Adam White saying he would be ‘borderline unplayable’.
Australia will probably beat England easily at the MCG. But if Australia wants to win really, really easily, selectors should play Scott Boland. He’s been close to unplayable since Matt Page added more life to the MCG pitch. If it’s horses for courses, Boland should be odds-on.
— Adam White (@White_Adam) December 23, 2021
Cummins said the Aussies would treat a leg injury to Richardson with caution, after he bowled 38 overs in Adelaide in his first Test in nearly three years.
“He was pretty sore… we were umming and ahhing,” Cummins said.
“He had a bowl yesterday but we thought seven days off [until the New Year’s Test] will give him enough rest.
“He’s got a small leg injury which is nothing major, but we thought rather than risking a long-term injury, we’d give him a week off.”
Boland is the first Australian to make his debut on the biggest day on the Test calendar since Joe Burns in 2014 against India. As expected, the news was the perfect Christmas present for the fast bowler.
“He’s really excited obviously,” Cummins said.
“It’s a dream for him to wear the Baggy Green. Packed MCG on Boxing Day, it doesn’t get any better.”
Boland becomes just the second men’s Indigenous player, after Jason Gillespie, to earn a baggy green. Hailing from the Gulidjan tribe in Colac, an outstanding Sheffield Shield campaign for Victoria has seen him pocket 15 wickets at just 10.80.
He has represented Australia before, playing 14 ODIs and three T20Is throughout 2016.
Boland is the third Australian debutant of the series, joining Neser and Alex Carey in donning the whites for the first time. With Cameron Green and Will Pucovski handed debuts last summer, it means Australia have named five first-gamers in their last seven Tests.
England’s dire position in the Ashes has led coach Chris Silverwood to swing the axe, making four changes for the must-win match.
Rory Burns’ poor form at the top of the order has cost him his spot in the team, with replacement Zak Crawley’s dire average of 11 in 2021 balanced out by his predicted suitability to Australian conditions.
Ollie Pope’s struggles against Nathan Lyon have seen him replaced as number six batter by the experienced Jonny Bairstow, who is one of three Englishmen in their squad – the others Dawid Malan and Ben Stokes – with a Test hundred in Australia.
Twin changes have been made in the bowling attack, with quicks Chris Woakes and Stuart Broad left out. The pacy Mark Wood has been recalled, while England have opted to roll the dice once more with spinner Jack Leach despite copping a hammering in Brisbane.