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England face bleak scenario ahead of Hobart Test as key players suffer injuries

 
Sydney, Jan 8 (IANS) England face a bleak scenario going into the fifth and final Ashes Test at Bellerive Oval, Hobart from January 14 with reports suggesting that all-rounder Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler and Jonny Bairstow likely to miss the game due to injuries.

England are already 0-3 down in the series, with a fourth Test loss looming after Australia set the tourists an improbable target at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Saturday.

Stokes, who scored a patient 66 in the first innings here, did not bowl on Day 4 due to a side strain, while Buttler has a finger injury and Bairstow, the first innings centurion at Sydney, underwent a thumb X-ray.

Bairstow had suffered a nasty blow on his thumb from pace bowler Pat Cummins during his century knock.

A report in Sky Sports said on Saturday that the three were available for batting on the final day of the Sydney Test if needed "but their participation in Hobart Test is in doubt".

With both Buttler and Bairstow off the field due to injuries on Saturday, substitute fielder Ollie Pope kept wicket in the hosts' second innings, while Sam Billings has been drafted into the side ahead of the final Test.

England assistant coach Graham Thorpe conceded there were injury concerns ahead of the Hobart Test. "We've obviously got some blows. It's possible (they will miss the final Test) but we will be assessing all of that at the end of the game. Obviously, Sam (Billings) has been called into the group and that's obviously a good indicator of some of the concerns we have with the injuries," said Thorpe.

"But I am sure the lads will take whatever they need to take to get themselves in a position where they are capable of performing on the final day (in Sydney). They will all bat and they will all do their very best, I know that. At the end of the game we have to assess who is potentially going to be available. With Stokes, his injury is not a great one being an all-rounder."

--IANS

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