- The Ashes
Prior's calf tear puts Bairstow in line
Jonny Bairstow may be in line for an unexpected turn as England's Ashes wicketkeeper after scans revealed Matt Prior had suffered a left calf tear during the Australia A match in Hobart and is ruled out of the final warm-up match against an Invitational XI in Sydney.
Prior's diagnosis leaves him in genuine doubt for the first Test in Brisbane, heaping pressure on Bairstow to step in for the position after it appeared he had only a reservist's role in the team director Andy Flower's plans for the series. Bairstow made numerous starts in England at No. 6 but was dropped for the final match at the Oval and arrived down under as the back-up gloveman.
"It's not ideal but it gives some good opportunity to Jonny Bairstow as well," Ian Bell said. "We've seen in the past how important it is to get the whole squad playing cricket before the series starts, because you never know with five Test matches, players need cricket under their belt. Matt is a key part of our success over the last few years and obviously we want to get him recovered as quick as possible.
"I would've thought if Matt's fit then he plays. He's been a massive part of our success, he's vice-captain of this team, he's an important bloke in the dressing room the way he talks to the guys, not just the stuff he does on the field.
"There's still a bit of time, Matt's got himself in fantastic condition for this tour and he's been very good with his rehab, so I've got every faith he'll be fully fit for Brisbane, and it gives someone else an opportunity in this game, and it's good for Jonny to get another game in an England shirt."
Bell said the previous series had provided valuable experience for Bairstow and Joe Root, who appears set for a middle-order commission after struggling at times against the new ball in England. The left-hander Michael Carberry looks set to partner Alastair Cook at the top of the order.
"I could feel for both Rooty and Jonny as young players," Bell said. "The only way to learn about Ashes cricket is by getting involved. You can get a lot of advice from people beforehand but until you've gone through it the feelings and the pressure it's difficult to learn. Those players will be a lot better players for what they've been through. It's nice Jonny gets an opportunity now that he didn't look like he was going to get on this tour early."
Bell said Kevin Pietersen had recovered well from his cortisone injection to the knee and was in line to play at the SCG from Wednesday.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here