Ashes hero Ian Bell is adamant the England selectors have picked a terrific squad to tour Australia with the uncapped trio of Gary Ballance, Ben Stokes and Boyd Rankin part of a youthful 17-man squad.
The ECB announced the names at midday with Yorkshire’s middle order batsman Ballance the surprise inclusion and will provide stiff competition for his county teammate Jonathan Bairstow.
Michael Carberry also joins the party after a fine season for Hampshire as he was preferred to the unlucky Nick Compton as back-up to the opening pair of Alastair Cook and Joe Root with Stokes filling the all-rounder berth.
Rankin, like Bell plays his county cricket for Warwickshire and was one of the stars for England in the recent One Day International series against Australia and benefited from a number of high profile players being rested such as Stuart Broad and Jimmy Anderson.
The fast bowler who was born in Ireland moved to Edgbaston in 2008 from Derbyshire after two-years plying his trade at the County Ground. He performed admirably in the 50-over format taking nine wickets in the recent internationals and 2013 Ashes Man of the Series Bell has exclusively told GiveMeSport he is pleased to have him in the Test squad.
“It’s very exciting for him inparticular and for the squad to have him, Chris Tremlett, (Steven) Finny and (Stuart) Broady we have big tall bowlers and on those types of wickets will be very aggressive and handy.
“Boyd has worked really hard and bowled well against Australia in the one day series so he deserves his opportunity. It’s very exciting for him and in terms of the bowling line-up there is plenty of fire power there to go down under.”
Those four bowlers all measure at least six foot five inches and offer pace, bounce and plenty of agression. Tremlett was a star of the last Ashes tour in Australia with the Surrey man picking up 17 wickets and will face even stiffer competition for places than he did in 2010/11.
“They will certainly ask questions when there is pace and bounce in a pitch then your technique has to be good and we can extract some good bounce and ask big questions so that’s a nice thing about this squad,” claimed Bell.
“The selectors have covered all bases in terms of whatever surfaces we get and personally I think they will be good batting wickets. Even last time we were there you can get carried away by saying about the pace and bounce but they are good to bat on.
“It’s important that everybody contributes, when we went last time there was a nice balance too. You know on tours like this there will be injuries and the squad will be used to the full. Not just the tour games but inn the actual Test Matches too," Bell told GiveMeSport.
"We need to make sure the actual 17 that are going are good enough to get into the 11 and I am sure that is what’s happened looking at the squad.
“You never know what happens in this game, we could get there and somebody is hit by a bouncer and get a broken finger, a bowler could go down so you have to cover all bases. The importance of a squad where it’s difficult to pick your best 11 is vital and we are in that position.”
Ballance is one of those players that will be pushing for a Test debut after a strong season where he is poised to go past 1,000 runs in the final game of the season against Surrey this week. The Zimbabwe born 23-year-old has scored 995 runs at an average of over 52 runs per innings, almost the identical average to his entire first-class career which compramises of 64 games.
Stokes is even younger than Ballance and took his maiden international five-wicket haul earlier this month against Australia and has even been pinpointed as the next Andrew Flintoff and Bell can’t wait to see them in the five-day arena.
“There is plenty of talent around English cricket at the minute and competition for places is tough. It’s an opportunity for them to go out there in an Ashes squad because it doesn’t get any bigger than that, I’m sure they’ll learn a lot from being around an Ashes series.
“Without a shadow Stokes helps with his versatility, that’s part of going on tour because you’ve got to cover all bases in terms of a squad. There might be an injury in the batting line-up and I’m sure he can step in there and with a bowler too. If they want to change the balance of the team they can do that as well with him being an all-rounder.”