FAMILIAR FACES: England name strongest possible squad for Ashes tour
PA Nigel French
England have named a 17-man squad for this winter’s Ashes tour, with head coach Chris Silverwood leaning on familiar faces for the trip Down Under.
Silverwood and captain Joe Root are unable to call on a full-strength squad due to the continued hiatus of star all-rounder Ben Stokes and injuries to Jofra Archer, Olly Stone and Sam Curran but fears over players opting out due to concerns over Australia’s travel restrictions have not materialised.
Following successful discussions with Cricket Australia over arrangements for families and quarantine there have been no opt-outs.
As such the squad has a tried and trusted feel, with no uncapped Test players selected. That means potential ‘wildcard’ picks such as Lancashire trio Liam Livingstone, Matt Parkinson and Saqib Mahmood have all been overlooked but they can expect to form part of the Lions squad which will shadow the early stages of the tour and could yet be called upon.
While Stokes’ absence has long been expected – he has already missed the India Test series, the resumption of the Indian Premier League and the T20 World Cup as he prioritises his mental health and recovery from a finger injury – fellow all-rounder Curran was a late withdrawal.
While Curran’s bowling may not have been perfectly suited to Australian conditions, he could have offered balance and variety to the side in Stokes’ absence. However, the lower back injury which forced him out of the World Cup squad has now been diagnosed as a stress fracture requiring specialist treatment.
With Archer and Stone both sidelined, Mark Wood is the only express pace option in the seam ranks, which are led once again by the vastly experienced James Anderson and Stuart Broad.
While they, and perhaps Chris Woakes, may be making their Ashes swansong, Sussex’s Ollie Robinson is set for his first series against the old rivals and could find himself in a crucial role following his triumphant start to life as an international cricketer.
With Moeen Ali retired and Parkinson snubbed, the two spin bowling slots go to Jack Leach and Dom Bess. Among the batters, Haseeb Hameed travels despite missing out on a central contract this week, with Rory Burns, Zak Crawley, Root, Ollie Pope and Dan Lawrence also picked.
Jonny Bairstow is also included in the Ashes squad, contesting a middle-order slot as well as challenging Jos Buttler for the wicketkeeping gloves.
Announcing the squad, Silverwood said: “A tour of Australia is the pinnacle as an England Test cricketer.
“I am delighted that all of our available players have committed to the tour. We are looking forward to touring and enjoying the experience of this historic series.
“This is why we play and coach, to be involved in iconic series like this. More than half of our squad haven’t featured in an Ashes tour before, which means we will be fresh and looking to embrace the cricket and the excitement of touring one of the best places in the world.
“I believe we have selected a well-balanced squad with options in all areas and a blend of youth and experience. There is real competition for places and a genuine desire to work hard and compete, aiming to create some history.
“We are under no illusions about how difficult the task is going to be.
“Australia have been strong at home in the past, and there is an expectation on them to win this series. However, from our point of view, there is genuine excitement and belief that we can do something special.”
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