England have confirmed that Craig Overton is not fit to play in the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne after sustaining a fractured rib. Overton, one of England’s relative success stories in another disappointing Ashes campaign, was first hit in the ribs while batting in Adelaide and took a further blow in the same area while diving for a caught and bowled chance in Perth. A subsequent scan showed the crack, though Overton continued to play his part in the rest of the match.
With the England medical staff warning that Overton could potentially puncture a lung if he sustained another blow in the same area – and his whole-hearted efforts in the field render that far from unlikely – it has been decided not to risk him in the fourth Test. He must be considered a significant doubt for the Sydney Test, too.
Tom Curran, the Surrey seamer, is the most likely beneficiary of Overton’s misfortune. While Curran is no quicker than the rest of the England seam attack, he has a good range of skills – he was the only England bowler to gain any lateral movement on a flat surface at Richardson Park – and the character to suggest he will thrive on such a big occasion. Notably, he produced a fine slower ball to dismiss Chris Gayle in an ODI in Southampton just as the West Indies batsman was threatening to run amok. Tom, aged 22 and the son of former Zimbabwe international Kevin, would be making his Test debut.
He is not the only option, though. England could also pick Mark Wood, who is now with the squad and looks to be bowling at sharp pace in the nets. Doubts about his fitness linger, however, and the England management may be reluctant to risk him.
The other option is Mason Crane. While he would bowl the odd boundary ball – he is a 20-year-old legspinner, after all – he would offer some variety on what is expected to be another flat pitch (“a batting paradise,” was Chris Woakes’ assessment) and, at a ground with a vast playing surface, and as one of two spinners, could afford some protection.