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ENGLAND are confident Mason Crane will meet the challenge of his Test debut head on in the heat of the Ashes today.
Joe Root’s tourists have pressed the “gamble” button in search of a consolation victory in Sydney, having lost the urn before Christmas in Perth and then kept the scoreline at 3-0 thanks to a bore draw on a poor pitch in Melbourne.
A recurrence of Chris Woakes’s side injury will keep him out of the final Test but not the forthcoming one-day international series against Australia or the tour of New Zealand still to come this winter.
England were already planning to retain out-of-form all-rounder Moeen Ali alongside 20-year-old novice leg-spinner Crane — so Woakes’s absence merely means his fellow seamer Tom Curran can consolidate after his debut at the MCG.
Crane will become England’s youngest specialist spinner since Ian Peebles 91 years ago but Root is confident he has the mettle to deal with the occasion.
“The way he has conducted himself for the whole trip has been outstanding,” he said.
“For a young man to apply himself and absorb himself in the environment as he has is exactly what you are after.
“I can see a big progression in his game and the way he went about those Twenty20s in an England shirt [last summer] shows he is not going to back down from any challenge.
“He has bowled well when he has had the [tour match] opportunities on this trip and it is a really good chance for him to show what he is capable of.”
England have read the Sydney pitch differently to their hosts, who will stick with Nathan Lyon as their only spinner.
Root added: “On this surface, [Mason] is going to be a really good option.
“It looks like it should give a bit of turn throughout.
“It generally does here anyway but it looks like it has definitely dried out in the last 24 hours.
“That is why we have gone with two spinners, and a leg-spinner could be quite hard work late on in the game.”
Root also gave Moeen a timely endorsement, despite a miserable series so far which has brought the off-spinning all-rounder just three wickets at an alarming cost of 135 each and 136 runs at a sub-20 average.
“Moeen is a fine player,” said Root.
“Of course, he has had a tough couple of games but you don’t just lose the ability he has overnight.
“I am fully confident on this surface and throughout this week he can put in some valuable performances for the side.
“My message to him has been to relax and try and enjoy his cricket. He is at his best when he is having fun.”
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