The first Ashes Test begins on Thursday in Brisbane as England aim to retain that precious urn Down Under.
As preparations get underway ahead of Thursday’s opening Test, former England batsman Rob Key has selected his combined Ashes XI.
The 38-year-old, who spent 18 years at Kent, undoubtedly picked a strong line-up but migth have raised a few eye brows by even opting to include two players who definitely won’t feature in the first Test.
So lets take a look at who Key has selected in his combined Ashes team.
The openers consist of Australian vice-captain David Warner who will be partnering former England Test and ODI skipper Alastair Cook.
“It would be good to watch them bat together because they would complement each other quite well”, Key explained via Sky Sports.
“You have Cook who is one of England's best ever players and Warner who is probably one of the best batsmen in the world, at the moment.”
Moving to the number three and four positions and Key has opted for Aussie batsman Steve Smith and current England captain Joe Root.
“I'd have Steve Smith batting at three with Joe Root at four - and they'd probably argue about who had to bat a No 3!
“I'd have Root as captain though and I'd let him choose - because I'm biased.
“I'd say that they are the two best players in the world right now, they are just phenomenal run scorers.”
England wicketkeeperJonny Bairstow receives the nod to take up the number five role for Key’s side, although he wouldn’t have him behind the stumps.
“I would Jonny Bairstow but I wouldn't have him 'keeping.
“When you name England's best three batsmen you have Cook, Root and Bairstow - differing players but all very, very competent players as well, some of the best England have had.
“I don't think England will push Bairstow as high as five in this series.”
With Ben Stokes at the heart of a police investigation, the all-rounder won’t be included in England’s first Test squad.
However, Key has labelled him as one of the best players in the world and has put him at number six in his team.
“Obviously he isn't out in Australia for the first Test but I'm having Ben Stokes because if you're talking about the best players in the world at the moment, Ben Stokes is up there.”
Another man who hasn’t travelled to Australia is Jos Buttler but he too surprisingly features in Key’s XI.
“My keeper would be Jos Buttler.
“I like him and it is nothing against Ben Foakes, who is a fine player, but Buttler is a rare talent.
“If something did happen to Bairstow then I would be very happy to see Buttler walking out at No 7 at the Gabba or any of the Australian grounds.
“He would find a way in Test cricket, he is too good a player not to.”
England’s Moeen Ali is set to bat at number six to fill the boots of Stokes but he comes in a eight for Key:
“It's a no-brainer for me.
“Nathan Lyon is a good off-spinner and so is Moeen Ali - but Ali bats.
“He is a better cricketer than Lyon by a mile - that one is pretty simple I think.”
Into the bowlers and Mitchell Starc joins England duo Stuart Broad and James Anderson cover the remaining positions:
“Two of the best bowlers England have ever had and the best new-ball pairing in world cricket at the moment.
“You just can't leave of these two out, they would arguably get into England's best ever XI, let alone a combined England-Australia XI for this year.”
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