Tomorrow morning the England squad will be announced for Ashes tour this winter with the selectors facing several different issues across the team. For what it’s worth I’ve selected my squad for the tour explaining any potentially controversial selections. Let me know what you think.
Touring Party: Cook, Stoneman, Westley, Root, Malan, Stokes, Bairstow, Ali, Woakes, Broad, Anderson, Ballance, Wood, Overton, Crane, Livingstone, Foakes
Mark Stoneman has done enough for me to start the series at the top of the order with Cook. He strode out with incredible purpose on debut at Edgbaston, and started confidently before getting a beauty from Kemar Roach on 8, and looked determined throughout the series. His maiden test match half-century at Leeds and 40* to see England through to a series win at Lords were his only scores of note really but I like the cut of his jib from what I’ve seen and it would seem harsh to drop him after only 5 innings at the highest level. They really should have had him at the top of the order at the start of the summer but that’s another argument.
Tom Westley and Dawid Malan also make my squad after their performances so far this summer. Malan has showed some real grit and determination during this summer to make some scores after a difficult start against South Africa. He still hasn’t made that massive score that will establish his place in the team, and really help his confidence at the top level, but he certainly looked the part on his t20 debut against South Africa earlier in the summer and his two fifties against the West Indies have shown me enough to get him on the plane. Westley started his test career more brightly and hugely impressed me with his application and technique. After his first three innings however he went five without reaching double figures and has looked a candidate for LBW and caught behind playing his loose on-drives. He did however make runs in his last innings of the summer which might have saved him. I feel Hazelwood might get the run on him down under with is height and accuracy but I’m a big fan of his and I feel it’s worth taking him on tour at least.
I’m also a big fan of the two ‘back-p’ batsmen I’d take on tour, Gary Ballance and Liam Livingstone. I’ve always liked Gary Balance and I feel his career has been hindered by England’s insistence that he is a number three which is absolute rubbish. His nuggety technique will break up England’s attacking order nicely and I really do think he has the temperament for Test cricket. He’s a fantastic option at number five and in my team would edge Malan. Livingstone is my back up for Westley at number three. The extra responsibility of batting there for Lancashire has really helped his game and he has played fantastically this season making some really big scores. He has the concentration and determination to get through testing periods as well as an array of attacking shots to make the bowlers toil when his innings progress. He would also challenge Westley at number three for sure, although this is more fifty-fifty for me.
It’s a straight shoot-out between Ben Foakes of Surrey and Alex Davies of Lancashire for the back-up wicketkeeper slot. I’m a big fan of Jos Buttler but you can’t go on tour to Australia having played that little red ball cricket. Ben Davies has opened the innings for Lancashire and has stepped up to the plate with the gloves in Buttler’s absence. Dealing with the pressure of keeping and trying to score runs at the top of the order is difficult, especially in Division 1, yet he has had a fantastic season with both bat and gloves so certainly deserves to be considered. Ben Foakes has also had a great season and is now widely considered as the best wicketkeeper in the domestic circuit. He has also enjoyed a great season with the bat and having watched him play a couple of times you can see that he oozes quality. He averages 45 this year playing some really important innings and had a fantastic one-day cup as well. As much as I believe Alec Stewart would compare Rob Keogh to Ravi Ashwin if he played for Surrey, I think he’s right about Foakes, so he makes my squad.
The seam bowling department has become a little bit of a crisis point after the injury to the impressive Toby Roland-Jones, who was a certainty to tour, and for me to start at the Gabba. I really feel Roland-Jones would have had a great tour and if he does recover in good time would certainly be in my team. In his absence Mark Wood and Craig Overton would join the seam bowling ranks.
Craig Overton reminds me a lot of Chris Tremlett, the revelation of the successful 2010-2011 Ashes team, a comparison that has surely been made previously. Both are very tall, with fluent, loping actions that create consistently high speeds with steeling bounce and away movement. Given Stuart Broad has seemingly lost his out-swinger, Overton would certainly bring something a little different to the bowling department, adding pace and bounce which is always helpful in Australian conditions. His performances this year have been incredible, he averages 23 with the ball, and he looks like someone who could lead the England attack in future years. He can also bat a bit which should be handy. Mark Wood has been struggling with injuries of late but I feel he has that x-factor that so many English pace bowlers lack. At his best, when he throws in his variations in run-up easily, he can be mighty effective and should be used in short spells to hurry up the Australian batting.
Picking a spinner to support Moeen Ali was a real tough one for me, but I’ve decided to go with Mason Crane over Jack Leach. Picking Crane is a massive risk for England but I do think it’s the right way to go given the fantastic record that he has in Australia. He won Grade Cricketer of the Year over the winter and even made his debut for New South Wales, the first overseas player to represent the state since the great Imran Khan. He reminds me a lot of Stuart MacGill with his bustling run up, big spinning leg breaks and his well disguised wrong-un. We all remember how brilliant a player MacGill was and I think Crane could become just as good, without a Shane Warne in his way. Modern Australian spinners, Warne and Lyon, have good records at Brisbane and Sydney so England might be tempted to play Crane alongside Moeen. He might not have much first-class experience but leg-spin tends to fair better in Australia because of it’s greater variation so it might be worth the risk. England’s wealth of all-rounders should be able to protect him as well so all in all I think it’s a good selection.
So there is my squad, who would you take down under?
RAW will start their coverage of the Men’s and Women’s Ashes Tour with blog posts, podcasts and on-air coverage that will be announced soon, so keep your eyes peeled.
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