The England squad for the return Ashes series is due to be announced on Monday. Who should England take and who will miss out?
Let’s look at the “first on the teamsheet” players, and then see how many places we’ve got left.
- Batsmen: Cook, Root, Trott, Pieterson, Bell
- Bowlers: Anderson, Broad, Swann
- Keeper: Prior
Nine of the starting 11 pick themselves. That leaves 8 places up for grabs, which should include 1 genuine batsman, 1 fast bowler, a back-up wicket keeper and a second spinner.
Possible wicket keepers
- Jonny Bairstow
- Jos Buttler
- Steve Davies
Jonny Bairstow is a fairly easy choice here as he is a genuine test batsman and has more test experience than the other contenders.
- Michael Carberry
- Nick Compton
- James Taylor
- Gary Ballance
- Ravi Bopara
- Alex Lees
As I said before the home Ashes series, I wouldn’t have promoted Joe Root so early in his career and would have continued with Nick Compton as opener. Now Root is established I wouldn’t demote him but Compton has what it takes to be an excellent test batsman and made good scores in previous away series. He also offers the option of opening if either Root or Cook get injured. Carberry misses out as he is 32 and England need to be thinking about the future. Bopara is a good limited overs batsman but hasn’t produced consistently enough at test level. Taylor, Lees and Ballance are promising, but I’m not sure they’re ready for the test arena yet, especially not making a début in an away series in Australia in an England batting line-up that isn’t in the best of form.
- Tim Bresnan
- Chris Tremlett
- Boyd Rankin
- Steven Finn
- Graham Onions
This is probably the most difficult decision — all of these bowlers are excellent and have produced the goods for England at one time or another. Both Tremlett and Finn did well in Australia in 2010 and both have the pace and height that is well suited to Australian wickets. Boyd Rankin also has pace and bounce and has done well for England recently. Graham Onions hasn’t played for England for a while but has had a good season and offers a different option. Tim Bresnan has consistently delivered the goods for England and can do a bit with the bat as well.
Possible second spinners
- Monty Panesar
- Simon Kerrigan
- James Tredwell
This is a close decision between Panesar and Kerrigan. Panesar just about gets the nod due to his much greater test experience but this depends on him sorting out any issues off the field. If there are still reasons for doubt about his off-field behaviour then Kerrigan gets the nod. Tredwell misses out as Panesar is a better bowler, or if England are looking to the future, Kerrigan is a lot younger.
- Ben Stokes
- Chris Woakes
This is another difficult choice, either player could go or be left behind. Stokes had a good one day series, but test cricket is very different. He also had some disciplinary issues on a Lions tour earlier in the year.
First round picks
If I pick some of the players listed above then we can have a look at the balance of the squad and use that to help select the last 2 or 3 players
Cook, Root, Trott, Pieterson, Bell, Prior, Broad, Bresnan, Swann, Anderson, Bairstow, Compton, Tremlett, Panesar, Finn
This leaves me 2 players to pick. I’ve picked 8 genuine batsman (including 2 wicket keepers), 5 fast bowlers and 2 spinners. We should take at least 1 more fast bowler and ideally an all-rounder. On balance I think England should take Stokes as a promising young all-rounder and Onions as the final fast bowler. Onions just edges out Rankin as he offers something different and has considerably more experience.
Cook, Root, Trott, Pieterson, Bell, Prior, Bresnan, Broad, Swann, Tremlett, Anderson, Bairstow, Compton, Panesar, Finn, Stokes, Onions
Some of the other players who just missed out (Woakes, Bopara, Kerrigan, Rankin) should get their chance in the limited overs games to show that they deserve to be included in the squads for next summer against Sri Lanka and India.
I’ve listed my first choice 11 as the first 11 players. I’ve picked a 5‑man bowling attack as I think England will want the height and bounce of Tremlett and will also need 4 fast bowlers for the hot Australian conditions. England like to have an a number 6 batsman but I’ve promoted Prior to 6 and made Tim Bresnan my number 7 all-rounder as he offers quite a lot with the bat (his test average is 30; Bairstow averages 30; Compton 32)
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