0The Ashes urn2019 Ashes

So, with the crick­et world cup almost over, it’s time to start think­ing about the main event of the crick­et­ing sum­mer: the Ashes! In the last install­ment Eng­land were once again soundly beaten down under, but they haven’t lost at home for 18 years. On paper both sides have some top play­ers, so it looks like it could be the closest series since 2005. To ensure they come out on top Eng­land will need to sort some big issues at the top of their order.

Eng­land won their main home series last sum­mer com­fort­ably against India, but the Aus­trali­ans are likely to prove a tough­er chal­lenge, espe­cially as they are des­per­ate to win in Eng­land for the first time since 2001!

In their most recent test match Eng­land won, but it was a dead rub­ber as they were already 2–0 down in the series against the West Indies. In the first 2 tests of that series Eng­land made some very poor scores: 77, 246, 187 and 132.

Between the India vic­tory at home and the defeat in the West Indies, Eng­land dis­patched a poor Sri Lanka side which did­n’t tell us much.

When it comes to per­son­nel, Eng­land have a wealth of fast bowl­ing options and plenty of qual­ity in the wick­et-keep­ing depart­ment. There are some issues around spin bowl­ing and big ques­tion marks at the top of the batting.

The last test team in the West Indies was

1. Burns
2. Jennings
3. Denly
4. Root
5. Buttler
6. Stokes
7. Bairstow
8. Ali
9. Wood
10. Broad
11. Anderson

In the pre­vi­ous games of that series and the two pre­vi­ous series sev­er­al oth­er play­ers also played at least some games (exc. Cook who has retired): Foakes, Malan, S. Cur­ran, Rashid, Leach. Over a slightly longer term, since the retire­ments of Andrew Strauss, Jonath­an Trott and more recently Alastair Cook, Eng­land have exper­i­mented with lots of bats­men: Jen­nings, Burns, Bal­lance, Malan, Vince, Denly, Pope, Rob­son, Lyth, Stoneman

First the bowl­ing. Jofra Arch­er is almost cer­tain to come in to the side, with the per­son most likely to miss out Mark Wood. Stu­art Broad will not be cer­tain of his place unless he can deliv­er against the Aus­sies as he has in pre­vi­ous series. The play­er I most feel for here is Chris Woakes who is a tal­en­ted swing bowl­er who is handy with the bat too. The good news for Woakes is that he ought to get his oppor­tun­ity when James Ander­son even­tu­ally retires. He and Wood are both wait­ing in the wings if Stu­art Broad does­n’t deliver.

Moeen Ali is highly likely to play as the exper­i­ment last year with Adil Rashid in the test side was­n’t suc­cess­ful, whilst Moeen takes wick­ets reg­u­larly and if he can refind his form with the bat that really enhances the strength of the side.

Keaton Jen­nings has had enough chances and has con­sist­ently demon­strated he has a prob­lem against good qual­ity pace bowl­ing. He made most of his Eng­land runs against spin. In the face of the qual­ity Aus­trali­an attack he looks vulnerable.

Rory Burns is cur­rently in reas­on­able form with an aver­age of 42 in the county cham­pi­on­ship but such an aver­age does­n’t inspire con­fid­ence in the face of an Aus­trali­an seam attack.

James Vince flat­ters to deceive, con­sist­ently get­ting starts and not going on, and that’s against the white ball, let alone the more dif­fi­cult red.

Malan does­n’t seem suited to Eng­lish test con­di­tions and Denly, Pope, Rob­son, Lyth and Stone­man no longer seem to be in the frame.

The stand-outs from the county cham­pi­on­ship are Gary Bal­lance (av. 60), Sam North­east (av. 60) and Dom Sib­ley (av. 70)

Sib­ley is a top‑3 bats­man who cur­rently opens for War­wick­shire with the highest aver­age int he county cham­pi­on­ship after Joe Root.

North­east has been on the edge of an Eng­land cal­lup for some time and offers a more exper­i­enced head that could be valu­able in an inex­per­i­enced top‑3 although he more usu­ally plays at num­ber 4.

Bal­lance has pre­vi­ous Eng­land exper­i­ence and a bet­ter test aver­age (37) than any of the oth­er recent Eng­land exper­i­ments, although his scores have typ­ic­ally been against teams from the sub­con­tin­ent, rather than sides with a strong pace attack.

Anoth­er pos­sible can­did­ate for selec­tion is Eng­land 1‑day and T20 star open­er Jason Roy who has been instru­ment­al to England’s suc­cess in the short­er forms of the game. Can he emu­late Jos But­tler and take his suc­cess against the white ball and apply it against the more dif­fi­cult (swinging) red ball? Roy has nev­er played a test match for Eng­land, but his one-day record is impress­ive, with an aver­age of 42 at a strike rate of 107. His first class aver­age of 38 sug­gests he can play against the red ball in Eng­lish con­di­tions. He also has exper­i­ence against Aus­trali­an bowl­ers from play­ing Big Bash, and is unlikely to be over-awed by the occasion.

Of all these can­did­ates I have the most con­fid­ence in Jason Roy, the only ques­tion being can he adapt his game to the red ball. He plays well against the white ball as an open­er, and the white ball does often swing in the first couple of overs.

I would also be inclined to pick Sam North­east at 3, as I think per­son­al­ity is an import­ant factor in an Ashes series. He has a repu­ta­tion for being a calm head with plenty of exper­i­ence. He is also in good form which is import­ant com­ing into an Ashes side.

That just leaves the open­er to part­ner Jason Roy up for grabs. I think tak­ing a risk with Sib­ley is worth it giv­en his youth and the rel­at­ively good exper­i­ence around the rest of the team.

So my first Ashes team would be

1. Roy
2. Sibley
3. Northeast
4. Root
5. Buttler
6. Stokes
7. Bairstow
8. Ali
9. Archer
10. Broad
11. Anderson

If I had to guess, I’d expect Eng­land to per­sist with Rory Burns, at the expense of either Sib­ley or North­east. I would be sur­prised if the select­ors decide not to pick either Ali or Broad, but they seem the most at risk from the rest. If Ander­son isn’t fit then I would expect Chris Woakes to come in on the back of his suc­cess in the ODI format and because he brings a bit of lower order res­ist­ance with the bat.

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