On Monday lunchtime, the England selectors will announce their touring squad for the Ashes down in Australia. This is widely expected to consist of 16 players, of which no-one can safely guess who they will be. I’m writing this article, my final review of the summer, to set out whom I would take and explain why. I’ll also give you a list of people who may feel, rightly or wrongly, aggrieved to not be going with reasons why I wouldn’t take them. The date this was written on is 20/09/13, which I’m telling you as to point out that I know of no injuries or other reasons why people might not go. So, barring any external circumstances – the 16 players that I would take to Australia are: Cook (c), Anderson, Bairstow, Bell, Bresnan, Broad, Compton, Kerrigan, Morgan, Pietersen, Prior, Root, Stokes, Swann, Tremlett, Trott.
The Batting: Cook, Bairstow, Bell, Compton, Morgan, Pietersen, Prior, Root, Stokes, Trott Admittedly, there is possibly too much batting here but I’m going to stick to my guns and defend why I’ve selected so many. First of all, the top 5 will be Cook, Root, Trott, Pietersen and Bell as it should be. I’ve included another opening batter in Compton mainly because I don’t trust the form that Trott is in. He seems to be in a bit of a rut at the moment, and if I were England I would take someone who can cover him as well as open in case Root drops horribly out of form too. Not only will this allow them cover, it gives Trott and Root incentive to keep working as they will know that their place is not guaranteed. The worst thing you can have in a sports team is comfort. I also believe that number 6 is a serious issue for England, and we should use this tour to look at the options we have there. Bairstow, the one with the nod at the moment, has never nailed it down with a free-flowing century but has the potential to do so. England tried Woakes there in the 5th test and he did well however if we are going to go with an all-rounder then I would prefer Stokes. My solution is to play Eoin Morgan there, to replace Collingwood. He seems to be better at building innings these days, has actually scored a test century (or 2) before and he’s a livewire in the field. He has a better average and more centuries than Bairstow from only 4 more tests. Yes, Bairstow has played against good attacks however I believe it’s time we re-tried Morgan there with two back-ups in case it fails.
Other Options: Carberry is the main one here. He’s an opener who, like Compton, has test match experience. He’s got solid technique, scores runs for Hampshire and is in England’s thoughts given that he played in the One Day series. It’s possible that he will go. In recent years, James Taylor and Ravi Bopara have occupied the number 6 spot for England and they are names that will be mentioned. I don’t believe either are good enough, and please let’s not mention Samit Patel! Moeen Ali and Varun Chopra have had good years for their counties however it would be a real surprise should England go down one of those routes!
The Wicket-Keeping: Bairstow, Prior Prior is, rightly, number 1 and Bairstow is a good replacement for an injury in terms of keeping wicket and batting at number 7 so these two pick themselves. Other options: This one has got me thinking. Should England lose Prior to injury before we go, is Bairstow really the best option to keep wicket? If we compare his keeping, to say Kieswetter’s then we will find that the Somerset man is possibly more reliable. Given that Kieswetter is in the international wilderness at the moment, this may seem like an absurd name to mention. However, his batting average at first class level is similar to Prior’s (40 plays 39), with his keeping record better than Bairstow’s (279 catches plays 147, 8 stumpings plays 4). It makes sense to look at him as a genuine back – up as well as his Somerset team mate, Jos Buttler. Buttler doesn’t have the stats to push himself in front of either Bairstow or Kieswetter however he has potential to be an England great.
The bowling: Anderson, Bresnan, Broad, Kerrigan, Stokes, Swann, Tremlett If the batting options are too many, then the bowling options are possibly too small. Anderson, Broad and Swann are the guaranteed three picks with either one or two other players from that list being selected. For me, I’d start the series with Tremlett as his pace and bounce suits Australian wickets and caused them trouble in the 2010/11 series. He strikes fear into the Australian batting line up and coming on at first change, he could cause havoc with both the new-ish and old ball. Bresnan would be ideal for somewhere where it reverse swings, and offers batting depth therefore fits my strategy with playing Morgan. Also, Bresnan never lets England down and that reliability is not something you get from everyone. We need to take a second spinner and I believe it has to be Kerrigan. His debut was terrible however we need to show him that we trust him. Having watch him play for Lancashire for years, I know he is good enough to play for England. A whole tour bowling in the nets with Swann and Mushtaq Ahmed could teach him far more than bowling for a performance squad. Like I’ve explained already, Stokes is in the squad for the all-round capabilities he brings.
Other options: The hardest man to leave out was Onions. He has been the best bowler on the county circuit for the past two years and is the only like-for-like replacement we have for James Anderson. Do I think he will bowl well in Australia though? No, I don’t. Someone who would is Finn. I’ve simply left Finn out because I want him bowling as much as he can. Kerrigan needs to bowl with top quality international players so the nets are perfect for him, Finn just needs to bowl as much as possible in a match situation so a performance squad would be ideal. Rankin could feel hard-done by given that he played this summer and Tremlett didn’t however I believe that Tremlett’s experience should give him the nod. A spin alternative to Kerrigan is obviously Monty however no-one truly knows how he’s holding up mentally so could Briggs be looked at? I don’t think so as his first class record isn’t great! Again, I’ll mention Moeen Ali because he’s had a good season (we still aren’t allowed to mention Patel).
Verdict: The XI that I would start the series with is: Cook, Root, Trott, Pietersen, Bell, Morgan, Prior, Broad, Swann, Tremlett, Anderson. It suits the system that England are used to, gives Morgan another chance, lets Tremlett loose on the Australian batters yet everyone knows that there is competition for their places. Only Cook and Anderson should have guaranteed positions in the side, everyone else should be susceptible to form, including Broad, Swann and Pietersen! Do I think this will be the squad that England will take? No I don’t. Simply because I believe they will want to take another bowling option and therefore will drop Morgan to take Finn, Rankin or Onions. It’s possible that they will take 17 players still, if they do then I would like to see Morgan go. In truth, I can’t predict 5 of the 16 that will go. 11 are presumably nailed on: Cook, Root, Trott, Pietersen, Bell, Bairstow, Prior, Bresnan, Broad, Swann, Anderson, with the other 5 up for debate. I’m interested to know who you have picked as your other 5.