After securing summer Test series victories against South Africa and the West Indies, England’s focus now turns towards the huge challenge of retaining the Ashes in Australia this winter. The selectors announce their Ashes squad next week and there are several interesting conundrums around who will make the tour.
Debate: England’s Squad For This Winter’s Ashes Series
We asked the team at LastWordOnCricket to give their own Ashes squads, as well as the reasons behind their selections.
Matt Roller (Managing Editor)
Tom Westley misses out on my squad – he’s been unconvincing in Test cricket thus far, and I see little to suggest that putting him into the firing line against Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins would end well. Haseeb Hameed and Gary Ballance, both of whom were unfortunate to drop out of the team initially through injury, would be my backup batsmen, and I’d pick Joe Root at three with Dawid Malan slotting it at number four. I would shift Ben Stokes up to the responsibility of the number five role, meaning that the all-rounder plays more as a batsman, and pick an extra bowler – Roland-Jones, Ball or Leach, depending on conditions – to share the bowling workload.
Jos Buttler would be my backup keeper despite his lack of first-class cricket, as I feel that Ben Foakes’ batting is not quite Test quality, and Bairstow will continue with the gloves barring injury. I’ve picked Jack Leach as my spinner, even though Adil Rashid or Mason Crane is more likely to travel, as he has been unbelievably consistent for the past two county seasons, and is more than capable of doing a job for his country
Sean Wilson (Senior Editor)
Squad: Joe Root (c), Alastair Cook, Mark Stoneman, Tom Westley, Dawid Malan, Ben Stokes, Jonny Bairstow (wk), Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes, Stuart Broad, James Anderson, Alex Hales, Ben Foakes (wk), Toby Roland-Jones, Mark Wood, Jack Leach
Mark Stoneman showed promising signs during his debut series against the West Indies and he, along with Dawid Malan, is the type of tough character you want going on such a hostile tour like Australia. The big question, however, is over Tom Westley. If he fixes his vulnerable technique and gets help then he deserves a shot down under. His place in the starting XI could well be pushed by Alex Hales, who makes it as the spare batsman.
Ben Foakes has been the outstanding gloveman in county cricket this season and has also been in good form with the bat, averaging 46.30 over 12 matches, so he earns his place as the reserve wicket-keeper. The pace attack is to be expected, with Toby Roland-Jones and Mark Wood providing good backup with their pace and bounce. Jack Leach deserves to go as the second spinner due to his brilliant Division One form over the past two seasons.
Arjun Bhardwaj (Junior Editor)
Squad: Joe Root (c), Alastair Cook, Mark Stoneman, Tom Westley, Dawid Malan, Ben Stokes, Jonny Bairstow (wk), Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes, Stuart Broad, James Anderson, Gary Ballance, Jos Buttler (wk), Toby Roland-Jones, Mark Wood, Adil Rashid
The main struggle when picking a squad that England should use for the Ashes was finding quality batsmen to shore up the middle order. Tom Westley and Dawid Malan were far from convincing this summer, but it appears that there are not many other options of who should replace them. However, I recalled Gary Ballance back to the Test squad because I felt he was unjustly dropped earlier. Ballance wasn’t given the same length of time in the side as Westley and Malan have but has proven that he is capable in the Test arena.
For the middle order, I also picked Jos Buttler who is one of the most exciting batsmen in world cricket at the moment. His power hitting could provide a strong counter-attacking force down the order, much like Quinton De Kock of South Africa. Other than these two controversial picks, the rest of the batsmen are as you might expect. In terms of the bowling, I included Adil Rashid on the basis that it may be useful to have a second spinner in the side just in case one of the venues produces a turning track. With
In terms of the bowling, I included Adil Rashid on the basis that it may be useful to have a second spinner in the side, just in case one of the venues produces a turning pitch. With quality all-rounders in the form of Ben Stokes and Chris Woakes, England have no shortage of seamers to pick from and this will be one of their main strengths. Mark Wood was a tough inclusion, but I opted for him just ahead of Liam Plunkett based on his previous record.
Squad: Joe Root (c), Alastair Cook, Mark Stoneman, Tom Westley, Dawid Malan, Ben Stokes, Jonny Bairstow (wk), Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes, Stuart Broad, James Anderson, Liam Livingstone, Ben Foakes (wk), Toby Roland-Jones, Jake Ball, Jack Leach
Of the 16 names listed here, I would say 12 are certainties to go to Australia, with the 11 that triumphed in the final West Indies game along with Chris Woakes already packing their bags for a trip Down Under. Liam Livingstone is my flyer. He has the makings of an outstanding all-around player for England and his breakthrough is surely just around the corner. The 24-year-old boasts a first-class average of 49.97 and his recent 224 against Warwickshire highlights just how special a talent he could be, with a complete palate of shots and successful character.
Ben Foakes is streets ahead of Jos Buttler as a red ball cricketer despite the Lancashire man’s intentions to play Test cricket again. Due to him being exemplary with the gloves and in good touch with the bat, should an injury hit Bairstow, Foakes could slip in at number seven or eight extremely comfortably and not let the team down. Buttler should focus on franchise white ball cricket: he is extraordinary in that regard, but his desire to keep in the longer form should be questioned, as he is not even doing so at Old Trafford.
I have expanded on why Jack Leach would be my backup spinner over Mason Crane in an individual article, and Jake Ball would be my fifth seam option ahead of Mark Wood. Ball receives kudos for his hard-work in Bangladesh last winter, with his reliability, character and exceptional discipline in all formats deserving of further consideration in Test matches.
Squad: Joe Root (c), Alastair Cook, Mark Stoneman, Tom Westley, Dawid Malan, Ben Stokes, Jonny Bairstow (wk), Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes, Stuart Broad, James Anderson, Alex Hales, Ben Foakes, Mark Wood, Craig Overton/Tom Curran, Mason Crane
England have the opportunity to learn from the selection mistakes made during last winter’s tours. Gareth Batty, Zafar Ansari, and Liam Dawson, in particular, were negative selections when England could have invested in other emerging talents. Of course, the selectors can be partially forgiven due to the tours taking place in the subcontinent – a region where England were not well equipped to be successful.
Now, however, taking Mason Crane, Ben Foakes, and either Craig Overton or Tom Curran to Australia could earn England far richer rewards than their selections one year ago. The majority of debate will focus on the batting line up but the bowling could encounter similar problems. Every member of the current seam attack have encountered injuries in the past few months, and five Test matches in the harsh conditions down under could take its toll. By taking Curran or Overton, the bowling attack will be supplied with a different dynamic and fresh legs if and when they need it.
Mason Crane’s efforts in Shield cricket last winter should certainly earn him the role of the second spinner, while Alex Hales is the strongest and most flexible batting option. Toby Roland-Jones is unfortunate to miss out but given Australia’s method of targeting one bowler, he is the most likely candidate.