Gary Ballance
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Four changes needed for England to have chance of SCG consolation

| 02.01.2014

Geoffrey Boycott said it on Test Match Special that England have to start planning for the next Ashes series now and four changes for the final clash of this series at the Sydney Cricket Ground would be one place to start.

As England embark on their whitewash-saving mission after sliding to an eight-wicket defeat in Melbourne, there is no obvious answer as to what needs to be improved, although being dismissed for less than 200 in four of the eight innings so far is an obvious place to start.

Joe Root’s future is widely seen to be as the opening partner of Alastair Cook and so he should return to this spot, with Gary Ballance next in line to step into the middle order, at the expense of Michael Carberry.

Ballance was widely expected to start the second Test after Jonathan Trott’s decision to leave the tour, but instead this spot went to Ben Stokes.

The Zimbabwe-born batsman may be untested at international level, but he did score more first-class runs than anyone else in Division One of the County Championship last season and built up a patient 50 in a series warm-up with a Cricket Australia Chairman’s XI.

Sending Ballance in to bat at three is a big ask and the obvious candidate to promote up the order is Ian Bell, leaving Ballance to come in at five.

However, Kevin Pietersen averages 119 from his one previous match batting at three and he showed in the last Test in Melbourne that he is capable of digging in and playing a more watchful innings.

Moving Pietersen to three and leaving Bell at five would also mean that England’s three senior heads and the three relative rookies would be nicely divided in the batting order too.

Lining up with Cook and Root opening, followed by Pietersen, Ballance, Bell and Stokes could work.

Below them, it is a no brainer that Matt Prior has to return behind the stumps after Jonny Bairstow struggled in this department when given a chance in Melbourne.

Prior’s own form has been disappointing, averaging only 17 with the bat this series and surpassing 50 just once in his last 19 Test innings, but as England opted against calling up a second out-and-out wicket-keeper for the tour, he has to play.

Following Graeme Swann’s immediate retirement after the third Test, it seemed a straight-forward opportunity for Monty Panesar to confirm himself as England’s chief spinner moving forward.

But the fact he bowled only eight overs in Australian second innings, with part-time spinner Root getting two spells, does not bode especially well for his prospects.

Scott Borthwick recently joined the tour after Swann’s retirement and alongside taking 110 wickets for Durham at an average of 31 with his leg spin, he scored over 1,000 runs last season and this ability would give England some much needed depth to their batting unit.

Meanwhile, England have three tall fast bowlers that have been unused in the series and this is particularly surprising, given that Stuart Broad has been England’s best bowler and the success that Mitchell Johnson has had for Australia with the short ball.

Steve Finn is a bigger hope than Chris Tremlett and Boyd Rankin and he did take eight wickets in Sydney earlier on the tour against a Cricket Australia Invitational XI.