All the contemplations regarding England’s Ashes squad was put to rest on Wednesday when the 16-man army was picked for the most intense battle known to mankind. England have made some surprising inclusions in the squad, which has attracted criticism. Let’s analyse the English squad for the Ashes.
Many cricket pundits termed this English squad as the poorest in last 10 years. Former English cricketer Kevin Pietersen expressed his opinion over Twitter and wrote, “Before bed, I have to comment on England’s Ashes squad it’s horrendous! They may as well not go!” Michal Vaughan, on the other hand, said, “The Ashes are looking like being lost even before England arrive in Australia.”
England have recalled James Vince and Gary Ballance while Ben Foakes, Craig Overton and Mason Crane are the uncapped players in the squad. Ballance didn’t have a great run for England against South Africa and was subsequently dropped from the national side whereas Vince had a modest run in the domestic circuit.
National Selector James Whitaker was quoted in a report from ESPNCricinfo saying, “In the ideal world, everyone has already debuted and us performing well – and they’ve played 25 times for England when they step on the plane to take on the toughest opposition. But we’re not always living in an ideal world. They guys we have selected who aren’t capped, we feel, have got the right characteristics and right potential and right skills to do really well in Australia.”
Whitaker spoke to BBC Sport about the inclusion of English players. On Gary Ballance’s selection, Whitaker said, “He has the form and ability to challenge in the middle order and put pressure on the opposition. He’s got a very good back-foot game.“
On James Vince’s selection, Whitaker was quoted saying, “James will admit he’s left some runs out there in Test cricket over the last couple of years. We’ve always seen someone with natural ability. We felt his game in Australia might be more suited to the conditions.”
England have drafted only two openers in the side, Alastair Cook and Mark Stoneman. The former has been a consistent performer at the top while Stoneman has shown nerves of steel in his sporadic appearances for England. The fact that, England does not have a reserve opener in the squad should give Cook and Stoneman a cushion to perform.
Vince is expected to bat at three as Whitaker emphasised on his strong back-foot technique, which will come handy in Australia. Vince didn’t manage to make an impact in his first bout. He floundered after getting solid starts and eventually lost his place against Pakistan at home last year.
Craig Overton can clock some serious speed, but England does have their bases covered when it comes to pace bowling. They would, in all likeliness, go with James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Chris Woakes and Stokes as their fourth seamer. But having someone as quick as Overton as a backup is always handy in Australian conditions. Overton has a reasonable experience to his name, having scalped 186 wickets in 26 First-Class games.
Mason Crane’s selection ahead of Adil Rashid has raised a lot of eyebrows. Crane is not coming fresh off a prolific county season nor he has a lot of experience to back his selection. Rashid, on the other hand, has massive experience and has done well to push his case. Australia won’t assist spin, but it will be interesting to see if Crane debuts in Australia.
Ben Foakes has been outstanding in the domestic season, averaging 42. In 43 First-Class games, Foakes has 2882 runs under his belt. The wicketkeeper-batsman is outstanding when it comes to glovework and has better numbers than many batsmen in the squad.
Malan did well against West Indies to retain his place in the side and this is a golden opportunity for him to cement his spot. Jake Ball is another backup seamer, who has been on song in the county circuit.
One does not need to speak about Anderson and Stuart Broad’s effectiveness with the ball. Anderson has been roaring to newer heights while Broad has been equally supportive from the other end. Moeen Ali has become an asset to the side and has done a magnificent job with the bat as well as with the ball. The responsibility of scoring bulk runs will be on Joe Root, Cook, Bairstow and Stokes.
Stokes will hold the key for England in this series; he is the X-factor in this side. Stokes can get runs in heap and produce wicket-taking deliveries consistently. The all-rounder has been on a roll across formats and his rise in international cricket has been irresistible.
England could have gambled with Alex Hales at the top as his style of play might suit the Australian conditions. Hales has been in good form and attacking cricket at the top will find success in Australia. With England still looking for a co-star to accompany Cook at the top, Hales could have been given a go.
This English side have a mountain to climb in Australia in few weeks. The hosts will be a tough nut to crack and it will be interesting to see if this combination works out for England. The first Test kicks start in Brisbane on November 23.
England squad: Joe Root, Ben Stokes, James Vince, Gary Ballance, Alastair Cook, Jonny Bairstow, James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes, Jake Ball, Mason Crane, Ben Foakes, Dawid Malan, Craig Overton, Mark Stoneman.