Australia captain Pat Cummins refused to rule out axing David Warner for the Ashes run-in after the opener’s struggles against Stuart Broad continued at Headingley.
Warner is coming to the end of the road in Test cricket, having flagged his intention to retire in January after a final homecoming game against Pakistan in Sydney, but he may not get the chance to bow out on his own terms.
The 36-year-old was dismissed for one and four in England’s three-wicket victory in the third Test, with his old nemesis Broad making short work of the left-hander on both occasions.
Warner now averages 23.50 in the series with a solitary half-century and, having fallen 17 times to Broad over the course of his career, Australia could find themselves pondering a difficult decision in the nine-day gap before battle resumes at Emirates Old Trafford.
Mitch Marsh made a major impact as an injury stand-in for Cameron Green, scoring a powerful first-innings century and taking two wickets, but both all-rounders are expected to be fit for the next Test.
Asked if Warner could be sacrificed to fit them both in, Cummins said: “We’ll keep all our options open. We’ve got nine or 10 days now, so we’ll take a deep breath.
“We’ll go away for a few days but everyone comes back into it. Greeny should be fit for Manchester, we should have a full roster. So we’ll have a look at the wicket, have a chat and work out the best XI.”
While there was precious little for for Warner to cling on to in those words, Cummins seemed more robust when the idea of Marsh dropping out again was raised.
“It’s possible, but it was a pretty impressive week wasn’t it?”
For Cummins, seeing England chase down 251 to get get themselves back in the series at 2-1 down with two to play was a rare negative experience in a summer of successes.
He led his team to the World Test Championship title against India last month, played the innings that got them over the line at Edgbaston and then claimed victory at Lord’s. All three games against England have been see-saw affairs, with chances for both sides to come through and tight finishes across the board.
“It seems like a series where each session swings in one team’s favour and then the next session the other team picks it up. I was just chatting to Stokesy, saying I wouldn’t mind a stress-free one.
“It’s not my preference but they’ve been great viewing. It’s just tense out there. I actually really enjoy being out there and feeling you’ve got some kind of control of the situation when you’re in the middle of it. It’s 100 times worse when you’re in the changing room and you wish you could do something about it but you can’t.
“I’ll have another look at it and see if there’s anything we might do differently, but it felt like we made some decent decisions out there.”