|Venue: Melbourne Cricket Ground Date: 26-30 December Time: 23:30 GMT (25-29 December)
|Coverage: Test Match Special and live text commentary, plus clips, features and analysis on the BBC Sport website and app. Daily highlights show on BBC iPlayer from 17:00 GMT
Australian Test captain Patrick Cummins arrived at his Christmas Day media appearance with a bolt from the blue, announcing that Victorian fast bowler Scott Boland would come into the team for the third Test against England at his home ground in Melbourne.
Boland will be only the second player with Indigenous Australian heritage to play for the men’s Test team, after Jason Gillespie.
Faith Thomas and Ashleigh Gardner have played women’s Tests for Australia, while Daniel Christian, D’Arcy Short and Hannah Darlington have played limited-overs formats. That’s the entire rollcall from 144 years of national teams.
“It’s huge,” said Cummins. “Dizzy (Gillespie) was the first. That’s huge. In Australia we have a rich history of 50,000 or 60,000 years, and it’s great that’s started to be reflected in our team.
“He’s really excited obviously, he’s dreamed to wear the baggy green, but also a packed MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground), Boxing Day, it doesn’t get any better.”
Cummins will himself return after sitting out of the Adelaide Test thanks to Covid-19 restrictions, meaning that Michael Neser and Jhye Richardson will drop back to the bench. Both are being monitored by Australia’s fitness staff given the quick turnaround between all five Ashes matches.
That must have been an especially tough decision to take for Richardson, who took 5-42 in the final innings to win the match for Australia.
“Jhye is pretty sore,” said Cummins. “He’s got a small leg injury which is nothing major, but we thought rather than risking him we’d give him a week off.”
Boland, though, was already being considered before the series as an MCG specialist, given his endurance on flatter pitches of the like that Australia’s two biggest cities can serve up.
“We earmarked him as a chance for here and the (fourth Test at the) SCG (Sydney Cricket Ground) in particular. We think he’s really well suited. His record speaks for itself here in domestic cricket.
“Having someone fresh like him who can come in and perform straight away, were the big factors.
“The first thing you’ve got to wrap your head around playing at the MCG is that you’re going to have to bowl a lot of overs more often than not. He does that really well. The Shield match out here they won against New South Wales I think he bowled 50 overs for the game.
“Pace stays up, he’s always at you, he bowls really well to left-handers.
“He’s not a huge swing bowler, there’s not a lot of swing at the MCG, but he asks a lot of questions around that fourth stump, off stump, knee roll, little bit of nibble each way, heavy ball. I think he’s just really well suited here.”
In contrast to England’s agonising about which bowling attack to field, Cummins said there was no concern in Australia’s camp about the changes that had been made, or the relative experience of the players.
“Although Nes made his debut last game, Jhye was in after a few years,” he said.
“Scotty’s making his debut this game. We felt really confident with how much domestic cricket they’ve played over the last few years that they could come in and be Test ready. There was a little bit of worry going into Adelaide, but we saw how well Jhye and Nes bowled.”
Boland’s gain may have come thanks to the loss of a Victorian team-mate, James Pattinson, who recently retired from national duties aged only 31 after waiting in the wings during Australia’s last Test summer without getting a game.
A swing bowler with serious pace, Pattinson is still a talent prodigious enough to have deserved more than his 21 Tests. Instead he is playing Big Bash cricket while his former team-mates push towards an Ashes win. But Cummins said that Pattinson was content.
“I think he knew that in a five-Test Ashes he was just about next cab off the rank. We always thought there would be an opportunity for him. But he knew all that. He weighed up his decision and he made the right one for him. He’s happy.”