With the 2017/18 England team to tour Australia scheduled to be announced on Wednesday morning, we begin our build up to this year’s Ashes series. The cricketing summer has highlighted that although England have strong key players in the likes of Root, Cook, Stokes and Bairstow, they have problems to fix and 2, 3 and 5. After much deliberation and many an hour listening to BBC Test Match Special this summer, here are Iain Leggat’s picks for who should make the trip in November.
1. Alastair Cook: He’s the rock and will play a crucial role in the Test series. He is batting as well as ever. His county, Essex, just won Division 1, and he managed to slip some centuries in during the Summer. His experience at the top of the order will help the new boys settle into the match. No Cook would be a big loss.
2. Mark Stoneman: A newbie but he proved his worth in the Summer tests. A solid player with lots of opener potential. He also went back to his county Surrey and continued to score big runs. He will do well.
3. Keaton Jennings: His England career has been up and down. Starting with a tour to India (no easy trip), he did well, scoring a century and being strong at the top of the order. He looked like the answer to all of England’s opening problems but he struggled immensely against South Africa and eventually got dropped. I would bring him though, and have three potential openers in the squad, especially against the pace bowlers of Australia. I back him to succeed under the Ashes pressure.
4. Joe Root: The captain, England’s best player and a man that England would be nothing without. How he handles the pressure of his second tour away to Australia will be fascinating. The Root vs Smith battle is looking like it is going to be fiery.
5. Dawid Malan: He did enough in the few tests he played this summer. A couple of gritty 60’s are exactly what England are going to need from a number 5, especially if they could transform into a 100.
6. Ben Stokes: England’s second biggest asset. He is the perfect all rounder and has the ability to change an entire game in England’s favour. He will be feared in Australia.
7. Jonny Bairstow: Cool, calm and wonderful to watch. When he is hitting well he is better than most in the England team. Having him at 7 gives England a lower order to fear. If a batting collapse occurs he has the ability to turn it around. Had a couple of wonderful innings with the bat in the summer, including his agonising 99 against South Africa.
8. Moeen Ali: Not the worst batsman to have down at number 8! Not given the credit he is due, but he also has the ability to change the game. An all rounder with a cover drive that should be put on all billboards around Britain. Will he be able to last the Aussies though, and what will his bowling do on a faster wicket.
9. Chris Woakes: Returning from injury he is looking to bring pace and skill with the bat. If he rebuilds the pace he had pre injury he will be very handy indeed on some of the wickets in Australia. Having him at 9 seems ridiculous when he is in form with the bat.
10. Stuart Broad: Brilliant bowler, who has torn through Australia before (just listen to Henry Blofeld’s commentary of his 8-15 in 2015). He can also be a valuable batting asset in the lower order.
11. Jimmy Anderson: England’s greatest bowler and the king of swing. Just recently reached the holy 500 wickets mark and is bowling better than ever, even at the age of 35. His experience with both the ball and playing, and winning, an away Ashes tour will be vital to England’s hopes.
On the Plane:
Alex Hales: One of the biggest hitters in the game, and has had some Test form in the past he could be of some serious use if injury occurs. I would place him instead of Jennings, but he could play lower down the order.
Tom Westley: Struggled for form when he was given his chance this summer. He should still get on the tour though. Build experience of international cricket and he is quite handy with the bat if needed.
Gary Balance: On and off form, but a great batsman. Yorkshire buddies with Joe Root and he could make the cut for the starting 11. A cracking player when in form. All England need to do is play him where he bats for Yorkshire; NUMBER 4!
Adil Rashid: Not quite at test level and an Ashes tour would be an ultimate test but he should be on the plane in case Moeen gets in trouble. There are a couple other spin options in Mason Crane or Liam Dawson, who are both strong contenders.
Stephen Finn: I would have selected his Middlesex teammate Toby Roland Jones, who burst on to the Test scene claiming a 5 wicket haul against the Proteas, if it wasn’t for injury, but Finn is a great replacement. He has plenty of international pedigree and can be a handy pace bowler.
Well there it is. Who knows what Strauss and the selection committee will pick. Even as I write this article it was reported that Stokes got arrested in Bristol after the 3rd ODI against the West Indies.
To put it simply, if he can’t come, England should really debate whether they just get on the plane or not.