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England to switch batting order for fourth Ashes Test

England to switch batting order for fourth Ashes Test
© Reuters
Joe Denly may be promoted to open the batting in the fourth Test, with Jason Roy dropping to number four.

England's bid to regain the Ashes was dented by the news James Anderson will be absent for the final two Tests of the series because of another injury to his troublesome right calf.

Anderson reported feeling pain in the area on Thursday while representing Lancashire's second string at Chester Boughton Hall as he sought to prove his fitness for next week's fourth Test on his home ground of Old Trafford.

The issue has plagued England's record Test wicket-taker since the beginning of last month, when a torn muscle on County Championship duty with Lancashire placed him in doubt for the Specsavers series opener against Australia.

While he was declared fit to take the field at Edgbaston, he bowled only four overs before breaking down and was sidelined for the second and third Tests as a result.

He returned for Lancashire's Second XI last week and stepped up his recovery by bowling 20 overs on Tuesday, but a further nine on Thursday led to a relapse and, after consultation with England's medical team, he has been rendered unavailable for the remainder of the series.

The 37-year-old's latest setback saw England add Craig Overton to the 12-man squad that was named ahead of last week's dramatic one-wicket victory at Headingley, which squared the series at 1-1.

Overton made his Test bow during the 2017-18 Ashes series Down Under while the last of his three caps came against New Zealand in March last year, when England succumbed to 58 all out in Auckland – a total that would have been even more ignominious had it not been for the Somerset seamer's unbeaten 33.

Overton has since been leapfrogged in the pecking order by the likes of Sam Curran and Jofra Archer but 32 wickets at an average of 21.34 in eight County Championship matches this year has helped him earn an international recall.

England, meanwhile, are likely to move Jason Roy down to number four and promote Joe Denly to open in Manchester as they look for a solution to their top-order struggles.

Roy's place has come under scrutiny because of a paltry average of 8.85 in seven innings as a Test opener, with his breezy knock of 72 against Ireland last month coming at number three.

Jason Roy walks off after being dismissed in the third Test at Headingley
Jason Roy has struggled as a Test opener (Tim Goode/PA)

His tendency to go hard at the moving ball has been criticised and although he has been retained, which meant Surrey team-mate Ollie Pope missed out on selection, PA understands England are considering switching the roles of Roy and Denly.

Kent batsman Denly made a favourable impression during England's record fourth-innings pursuit of 359 last time out with a battling 50 from 155 balls, helping to lead a recovery from 15 for two and adding credence to claims he is a more suitable partner for Rory Burns at the top of the order.

England head to the north-west emboldened by their win in Leeds, achieved thanks largely to Ben Stokes' majestic 135 not out, but Australia need only prevail in one of the final two Tests to guarantee their retention of the urn.

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James Anderson in action on day one of the First Test of the Ashes on August 1, 2019
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