After sealing a 2-1 victory over West Indies at Lord on Saturday, all eyes are now on the upcoming Ashes series on November 23 at the Gabba. The likes of Ben Stokes, Alistair Cooke, Moeen Ali and James Anderson have all booked their place on the plane to Australia after enjoying fine summers, with Anderson particularly impressive after recently taking his 500th Test wicket and showing the kind of form and consistency that has seen him regarded as one of the greatest fast bowlers of all time.
With Stuart Broad and Jonny Bairstow also looking fairly certain to join up with the rest of the team, there are still a few places in the England XI up for grabs and England coach Trevor Bayliss has a fairly pleasant looking selection headache on paper. Nevertheless, Bayliss has hinted that he doesn’t expect any new faces to feature in the Ashes and so England will once again be looking towards their main men to retain the Ashes and get their hands on the much-fabled urn.
England’s captain has recently stated that he believes England can achieve something special in the Ashes after their convincing nine-wicket win in the third and final Investec Test against the West Indies on Saturday. If England are to indeed regain the ashes then Joe Root’s batting displays will be of paramount performance against Australia’s new-look bowling attack. Root has put in some exceptional displays this year, including a brilliant unbeaten 184 back in July against South Africa on his first day England’s Test captain, and joined an illustrious list of players who have also achieved the feat including Kevin Pietersen, Alistair Cook and Andrew Strauss.
The England captain is turning into one of the nation’s most marketable and well-respected sportsman, recently becoming an ambassador for healthy living company Vitality and this new found fame means that the spotlight will be on the Yorkshireman more than ever. Root has scored some impressive and important runs over the Summer but different challenges lie ahead Down Under and Root will be under pressure to lead by example – pressure that most pundits believe he is well capable of handling.
The often flamboyant all-rounder is Joe Root’s new vice-captain and Stokes has shown time and time again that he is the kind of player who is able to up his game when there is added responsibility resting on his shoulders. Stokes scored an impressive century in the second Test against West Indies and followed it up with a solid showing of 58 in the second innings, despite the result going against England.
The stats over at ESPN are proof that he enjoys decent Test averages with both the ball and bat. Whilst England are 5/4 to with Betway to retain the Ashes Down Under, the fact they are only slight outsiders shows that there isn’t much between the two teams and games could be won or lost on fine margins. Ben Stokes has the ability and bottle to win games single-handedly if in the mood and whilst the Durham all-rounder put in a very solid showing in the recent Test against West Indies, he will still feel he has much to prove on the big stage.
Despite the fact that Toby-Roland Jones and Jake Ball have done fairly well this summer, they are not the sort of bowlers who strike fear into the heart of the batsman waiting at the other end of the wicket. Whilst Broad definitely deserves his place in the England XI to face Australia in November, questions surrounding England’s pace bowling could well centre around him if Mark Wood’s aggressive and hostile bowling doesn’t earn him a place on the plane.
The Nottinghamshire seamer has been unlucky with injury in recent times but his stats over the summer aren’t to be sniffed at – he’s taken 20 wickets at an average of 33.90 this summer and has been the victim of a number of dropped catches (The England team spilled an eye-watering 14 catches in the West Indies series alone). Broad will also need to re-find his trademark out-swinging delivery to have any chance of replicating his best form Down Under – this has been the most successful weapon in his armoury over the years and only hard work from now until the start of the Ashes will ensure he gets the delivery just right once again.
A Tricky Task
It’s safe to say that England will be up against it regardless of who ends up taking the remaining spots in the final XI but regardless of who is picked, there is sure to be a good balance of experience and as well as fresh and hungry players who are desperate to impress and show the selectors just what they can do.
The Ashes is arguably the most anticipated event in the English cricketing calendar and the character of the players picked will be just as important as anything else, owing to the massive amount of pressure and responsibility on the players’ shoulders. There are sure to be hostile crowds waiting for England Down Under and add difficult pitches and sledging to the mix and it’s easy to see why the Aussies go into this one as favourites.