Mitchell Marsh has been included in the 12-man squad ahead of the Oval Test. (AP: Asanka Brendon Ratnayake)
Vice-captain Travis Head has been axed for the fifth Ashes Test as Australia hunt a series win at the Oval, where Mitch Marsh will return to the XI.
- Mitch Marsh has not played in the Australian Test side since Boxing Day 2018
- Travis Head is dropped after run of disappointing scores since match-saving 42 at Lord’s
- England’s Jason Roy is dropped after recording a high score of just 31
Selectors are yet to make a call on whether Pat Cummins or Josh Hazlewood will be rested from the series finale, which starts on Thursday.
Peter Siddle, who played the first two Tests, has been retained in a 12-man squad and could be recalled in place of the world’s top-ranked bowler Cummins or an in-form Hazlewood.
Regardless of the attack, coach Justin Langer and chairman of selectors Trevor Hohns want to ensure their fast bowlers aren’t worked into the ground in London.
It means Marsh will don his baggy green for the first time since last year’s Boxing Day Test, during which he was booed by some sections of the MCG crowd.
“It was a really tough call on Travis Head … we felt like we needed some extra bowling,” Tim Paine said.
“[We need] to look after our big fast bowlers.
Australia squad for Oval Test: David Warner, Marcus Harris, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Mitch Marsh, Matthew Wade, Tim Paine (c), Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Peter Siddle, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood.
“It’s not necessarily Travis being dropped. We’ve been really clear with Travis on why he isn’t playing this game.
“We had to make a really tough call on someone and it happened to be Travis.”
Head helped Australia salvage a draw at Lord’s but has since logged scores of zero, 25, 19 and 12.
Paine insisted the South Australian remained “a big part of our future”.
Paine noted Marsh has “worked his backside off” since the home summer, improving his fitness to a point where he could sustain a big bowling and batting workload.
Mitchell Marsh has a batting average of 25.39 from 31 Tests and has also taken 35 wickets. (AAP: Hamish Blair)
The skipper suggested selectors were still waiting to see how Hazlewood and Cummins pull up before making a call on whether Siddle returns.
James Pattinson had been expected to return after being rotated out of the attack in Manchester.
“We’ve been really pleased with what James has done in his return to Test cricket over here,” Paine said.
“He’s bowling very, very well. He’s going to be a huge asset for us going forward.
“We’ve said from the start that we want to make sure we look after him, so he’s got a lot more years of Test cricket left him.
“We can’t wait to get him back to Australia and unleash him during the summer.”
England drop mis-firing opener Roy
England have finally run out of patience with Jason Roy, dumping the out-of-form batsman for the fifth Test.
Ben Stokes will play as a specialist batsman because of a shoulder injury, which has prompted selectors to swing the axe on Roy.
England XI: Rory Burns, Joe Denly, Joe Root (capt), Ben Stokes, Jonny Bairstow, Jos Buttler, Sam Curran, Jofra Archer, Chris Woakes, Stuart Broad, Jack Leach.
England have recalled all-rounder Sam Curran and paceman Chris Woakes in place of Roy and Craig Overton for the series finale that starts on Thursday.
Roy produced his highest score of the series at Old Trafford, a second-innings knock of 31, but has resembled a walking wicket during the past five weeks.
England captain Joe Root suggested Roy was “unfortunate” and his omission was purely because of Stokes’s setback.
“It’s always tough to leave guys out but Stokesy obviously picked up a shoulder injury in the last game and won’t be able to bowl the overs we normally expect him to,” Root said.
“Jason’s had an opportunity to come in and play Test cricket, get a feel for it and it’s not quite gone how he would have liked.”
Roy was in devastating form at the top of the order during the World Cup that preceded the Ashes series, averaging 63.28 — the second highest of England’s World Cup winners
However in his eight Ashes innings, he has averaged just 13.75. Roy’s top score in Tests came in the one-off Lord’s Test against Ireland where he scored 72 in the second innings.
Root said he was backing Roy to return to the squad.
“But I’m sure he’ll go away and work extremely hard and come back again,” he said.
“That’s what you expect of guys when they get left out and I’m sure he’ll have that attitude and will want to try and prove a point and get himself back into the side.”
Roy opened for the first three Tests then was demoted to number four for the high-stakes match in Manchester, but still struggled, scoring just 22 and 31.
Stokes is set to bat at number four as a specialist batsman in Roy’s absence.
Root held out hope Stokes would be able to possibly “bowl a couple of overs here and there” but the game-breaking allrounder is not expected to roll his arm over as the hosts seek to draw the series.
“His batting, as this series has shown, is a massive part of our side and he rightly deserves to be in this team as just a batter, and a top-four batter,” Root said.
“I’m sure he will want to find different ways of getting himself into the game, even if it’s not with the ball.”