Melbourne: England’s main strike bowler James Anderson and Steve Finn are fit to play in the crucial fourth Ashes Test against Australia, captain Andrew Strauss said on Saturday.
Anderson had been troubled by a side strain but bowled at close to full pace in the MCG nets yesterday and on Saturday and was given the all-clear by Strauss to play in the Melbourne Test.
“He had a bit of a niggle but he seems to have got over that,” Strauss told a news conference on Saturday.
“He’s 100 percent fit and available for selection.”
Finn showed signs of fatigue as Australia claimed a series-levelling win in last week’s third Perth Test. But Strauss has backed the 21-year-old quick to handle the demands of on Sunday’s five-day MCG Test.
“Finny has done some really good things on this tour, taken quite a few wickets,” Strauss said.
“He was probably a bit expensive in Perth (2-86 off 15 overs and 3-97 off 21). But he’s young and he’s learning and I think he’s going
to keep getting better.”
“We’re going to have to think about what that best balance is before on Sunday and we’ll name the side at the toss.”
Strauss said he was confident his team could recover from last week’s 267-run mauling in Perth.
“We had a few days off which was much needed -- it’s been quite a long tour -- and we came here and there’s been a lot of buzz and energy about the team over the past couple of days,” he said.
“There’s talk of nearly 100,000 people being there. It’s one of the highlights of your career, being able to play at the MCG in a Boxing Day Test. It’s a big Test match. Our heads have got to be firmly on the cricket.”
“We’ll have a couple of hours off on Christmas Day with our families and have a nice lunch but we don’t want to have any regrets, think ‘Oh, we should have prepared better for this Test match’.”
Strauss said his batsmen needed to take a patient approach on an MCG drop-in wicket which was expected to play low and slow.
“Sometimes it can be pretty tough to score here,” he said.
“Patience (is vital), which can be quite hard when there’s a big crowd here and you’ve got a bit of adrenalin going -- to remain patient and calm is quite tough.”
“But these conditions shouldn’t be that alien for us, it should suit our style of play. I think (spinner) Graeme Swann will come into the game
more than he did in Perth so there’s plenty of reason for us
to be optimistic about this game.”
“I can’t think of anything better than to come over to Australia and win the Boxing Day Test. That would be a very good feather in all our caps.”
Strauss said the struggling Paul Collingwood would retain the number five batting position and ruled out a promotion for Ian Bell.
“He’s a fighter and an experienced campaigner. These sort of scraps bring out the best in him,” Strauss said of Collingwood.
Despite their heavy Perth defeat, England still have the upper hand going into the final two Tests of an enthralling Ashes series, needing only one more victory to retain the coveted urn against Australia.
England last won a famous victory at the MCG in 1998 with Dean Headley taking 6-60 in the second innings as the tourists won by just 12 nail-biting runs.
Australia’s only loss at the MCG this decade was against South Africa two years ago as the Proteas went on to win their first-ever series in Australia.