England set to make five changes for final Ashes Test against Australia

England look set to make five changes for the final Ashes Test against Australia, with Sam Billings preparing to make his red-ball debut and Rory Burns on the verge of a recall just two matches after being dropped.

While England’s hopes of regaining the Ashes were ended after three successive hammerings in Brisbane, Adelaide and Melbourne, they at least showed some fight to cling on for a battling draw in the fourth Test in Sydney.

The series concludes in Hobart and Joe Root’s side are eyeing a consolation victory while Australia will hope to finish an impressive series on a high and run out 4-0 winners.

With Jos Buttler returning to England after breaking his finger, Billings has been penciled in to make his Test debut at Bellerive Oval.

Kent captain Billings has represented England 53 times in white-ball cricket and has recently been playing for Sydney Thunder in Australia’s Big Bash League.

The Cricketer say Billings will likely be one five changes for England, with Haseeb Hameed and Jack Leach set to be dropped, James Anderson rested and Jonny Bairstow an injury doubt.

Hameed, who was recalled to the side last summer following an absence of almost five years, has been dismissed for six successive single-figure scores after making 52 runs in the first Ashes Test at the Gabba.

Dropping Hameed will pave the way for Burns’ recall, with the Surrey opener missing the last two Tests in Australia after a poor start to the series.

While Leach claimed four wickets in Australia’s most recent innings, England are concerned about his effectiveness and are ready to take him out of the side in favour of Ollie Robinson.

Robinson, 28, was one of the few positives for England earlier in the series and was rested for the fourth Test in Sydney.

England’s record wicket-taker Anderson impressed in Adelaide and Melbourne but was less effective at the SCG and looks set to be rested for Chris Woakes.

Bairstow, meanwhile, is in a race to prove his fitness after injuring his thumb while scoring a superb century in Sydney. Ollie Pope will likely come into the XI if Bairstow is not deemed fit for Hobart.

Speaking on Wednesday, England captain Root said Stokes and Bairstow could play as specialist batters in the final Ashes Test due to their respective injury problems.

‘We’ve got to just see where they’re at,’ said Root. ‘We have to see what their bodies can handle and then assess everyone.

‘You certainly can pick Ben just as a bat and similarly Jonny as well – he’s been playing as a batter anyway.’

Root also insisted that Billings, 30, had brought ‘a lot of energy’ to the group since joining England’s Ashes squad.

‘He’s got a very good understanding of the country,’ the Test captain added.

‘As always, when he’s around the group, he brings a lot of energy and is constantly smiling – he loves his cricket. If he gets his opportunity he’ll put everything into it.’

All-rounder Stokes, meanwhile, wants to ‘play through the pain’ in Hobart despite admitting the side strain he suffered in Sydney ‘felt like surgery without anesthetic’.

He wrote in a column for the Daily Mirror: ‘I’ve never had a side strain before but when I bowled the ball that caused the low grade tear, it must be what surgery without the anesthetic feels like, it was agony.

‘The big question now is whether I can play in the final game as a batsman or not.

‘I’m not going to say definitively just yet because there are still a few days to go and we need to see how I respond to the treatment, but what I will say is that I want to play.

‘If it is a question of playing through a bit of pain, I know it is not going to be as bad as it was in Sydney and I got through that ok.

‘But there are other things to consider such as the West Indies tour to come and the likelihood of doing more damage.’

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