Ahead of the highly anticipated series down under today the England Ashes squad has been announced. The selectors have definitely thrown a few curve balls into this Ashes squad with the three main casualties Graham Onions, James Taylor and Nick Compton.
Graham Onions has to be one of the unluckiest cricketers on the county circuit, the last two seasons he has been absolutely superb for Durham. He has taken 66 wickets in the County Championship this season at an average of 17 and the previous season he took 64 wickets averaging an incredible 14.98. Statistics alone should have meant he boarded the Ashes plane and he has always performed to a high standard whenever he’s represented England, should Anderson get injured they might regret not selecting Onions.
The hallmark of this selection panel has been consistency in terms of selection but James Taylor won’t be a big advocate of that statement. He was seemingly regarded by the selectors as the next cab off the rank if a batsman should get injured or lose form but the selections of Ballance and Carberry will leave him feeling slightly bemused.
Nick Comptons situation is similar, his overall test record average of 31.93 isn’t going to set the world alight but he has a solid technique and has already scored two test centuries against New Zealand, against the 8th best test nation it’s not much to shout about in itself but considering England had a very poor tour there his scores were in fact one of very few highlights. His lack of form during the home series versus New Zealand put the nail in the coffin for his home Ashes ambitions but to go away and average a very healthy 46 is an indication of his class.
I think the only thing that counted against Compton is the balance of the England batting order. A top three of Compton, Cook and Trott is a very unhealthy balance particularly because of the way that they all accumulate runs and to tie those three down would pile far too much pressure on our middle order. Joe Root barring one innings hasn’t been spectacular but he provides a slightly better balance at the top. The thinking with Gary Ballance’s and Carberry’s selection is similar they all have the ability to up the tempo of an innings, Ballance at number six for me would be a very exciting addition to England’s middle order.
So here is the England squad: Alastair Cook (c), Joe Root, Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell, Matt Prior (vc), James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Graeme Swann, Jonny Bairstow, Gary Ballance, Michael Carberry, Steven Finn, Monty Panesar, Boyd Rankin, Ben Stokes, Chris Tremlett.
The fast bowling department is without Jimmy Anderson very one dimensional, they are all fast bowlers who like to hit the deck hard but it could also be argued that Broad could adapt his bowling to pitch it up and bowler the slightly fuller length that has brought him the majority of is success. The inclusion of Monty Panesar as the second spinner is an obvious choice especially given the baptism of fire that befell Simon Kerrigan however Monty’s role on this tour would be to provide injury cover for Graeme Swann as its very doubtful England would pick two spinners.
The opening combination of Root and Cook will have to fire in this Ashes, it’s fair to say the combination wasn’t particularly potent at home with Root only having the one substantial innings at Lords and with Cook averaging 25 during that series he’ll need to have a fine tour here.
Jonathon Trott had his first quiet series as well, he’s normally a run machine but of late has struggled to find any consistent runs there’s no doubting his quality but he’ll also want to put right a quiet home series and put some big scores on the board. Kevin Pietersen played magnificently at home and after the previous summer has fully integrated and justified exactly why he’s England’s best player, it’ll be more of the same for KP.
Ian Bell had the series of his life against Australia in the home Ashes and there’s no reason he won’t go on to dominate again, his technique is exceptional and he had the wood on the majority of Australia’s bowlers. It remains to be seen who will fill the number 6 slot but one would imagine it would be a Yorkshireman. One of either Ballance or Bairstow will occupy this slot, Bairstow who was dropped during the final test match of the summer didn’t make the most of his chances and now Ballance who has had a magnificent summer in county cricket averaging 57 and scoring a hundred in Yorkshire’s last 4 day game of the year is more than in contention. His aggressive style and the fact he’s left handed certainly add some variety to England’s middle order.
Matt Prior is another of England’s batsmen who failed during the Ashes series but Prior is a world class cricketer and I would back him to come roaring back to form during this series. Bresnan’s injury does free up a space in the bowling stocks the like for like replacement would be Stokes but I don’t think England will risk him as a third bowling option and it’ll be a blowout between Rankin and Tremlett as to who gets the starters birth for the Gabba.
The pantomime villain Stuart Broad will keep his place along with England’s number one spinner Graeme Swann. England’s premier fast bowler Jimmy Anderson will lead the line, he has been a tremendous bowler for a period of time now and for me is only just behind Dale Steyn as the best fast bowler on the planet. Carberry will provide cover if either of the openers go down injured and I expect Steven Finn to be carrying the drinks unless an Maury occurs to Stuart Broad.