Ballance among possible debutants

Blackpool Citizen: Gary Ballance could make his Test debut in the fifth Ashes encounter in Sydney Gary Ballance could make his Test debut in the fifth Ashes encounter in Sydney

England are considering the prospect of blooding three Test debutants as they try to avoid an Ashes whitewash in Sydney.

Captain Alastair Cook confirmed batsman Gary Ballance, tall fast bowler Boyd Rankin and leg-spinner Scott Borthwick are all in the reckoning for the final Test.

He also appeared to rule out a return for wicketkeeper Matt Prior, dropped for last week's fourth successive defeat in Melbourne.

Cook's opposite number Michael Clarke has been at pains over the past two days to make it clear he thinks the tourists should recall the experienced Prior - but it seems instead England will give another chance to Jonny Bairstow.

Monty Panesar reported a calf strain after fielding drills on New Year's Even but 24 hours later was able to bowl unhindered in the nets.

Even so, it seems likely either Borthwick or James Tredwell may get the nod as England's spinner after Panesar's mediocre performance at the MCG.

Asked if England may field three debutants, Cook said: "It's possible."

Speaking before afternoon practice, he added: "We need to assess Monty after training. (He had a) bit of a sore calf from yesterday.

"We can see how he pulls through training and decide either afterwards or tomorrow.

"You have to wait and see with these injuries."

Irrespective of which new boys get the nod, England seem sure to stick with Bairstow.

"Jonny deserves another chance," Cook said.

"It's very difficult to come in for one Test, and he is a very talented player.

"Matty's numbers stack up very well, and he's a fantastic player - you don't do that if you're not.

"But as he said himself, he didn't deserve to carry on as a player.

"If we're going back to numbers, over the last year he wasn't delivering with bat what we know he can do.

"He's still a fantastic cricketer, and at 31 he's still a lot of Test cricket available to him if he wants it."

Cook and coach Andy Flower must gauge England's chances of salvaging some pride in Sydney against a strategy for the longer term - in which both have recently admitted a transitional team is entering a new era.

"It's very dangerous if you always look to the future - (you should) always try to pick a side to win the Test you're playing," said the captain.

"The only time you start looking to the future is if you have two players of similar standing, but one's 36 and the other is 22.

"You'd pick the younger guy, thinking he'd have more to add to the future of English cricket."

That might, of course, tip the balance here towards 23-year-old Borthwick rather than Tredwell - who will be 32 next month.

One seems sure, along with Ballance and perhaps Rankin, to have an opportunity not just to try to bail out England on this tour but to pencil his name into future plans.

"We want to start with a win here," added Cook.

"It gives people who might not have played in this series the chance to make a difference.

"They can think that if they score a hundred here...they'll get to play another Test and try to make a difference."

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