Michael Atherton predicts the England team to face Australia in 2021 Ashes

First Test - Australia v England: Day One

After a resounding victory over Pakistan in the second Test at Headingley, certain cricket experts and legends are already looking at the long-term future and more specifically to Brisbane 2021, where the first Test of the next Ashes series Down Under will be played.

Andrew Strauss, England’s director of cricket, has recently brought to light new policies that may be implemented regarding the selection of sides for overseas Tests.

England have failed to win any of their last 13 tests away from home and last winter's Ashes series exposed some troubling weaknesses within the team.

Now is the time to look to the future and nurture some of the young talent rising through the ranks. The biggest challenge for the ECB over the next year or so will be the management of three England greats: Alastair Cook, James Anderson and Stuart Broad.

Selectors will have to get the balance right, as all three players will be needed to influence some our young stars such as Dom Bess and Keaton Jennings but at the same time, the youngsters will require first-hand test experience before 2021. 

Joe Root and Ben Stokes are expected to remain the heart and soul of the team. Their experience and ability to score runs and take wickets will be crucial should England wish to have any success down under.

Bairstow has also been selected by Atherton to keep his place in Brisbane 2021. There will be stiff competition from an in-form Jos Buttler for the wicketkeeper position, but both players are invaluable as they possess the experience and batting prowess to score many runs in a test series.

England v Pakistan: 2nd Test - Day One

Atherton commented on an article for The Times - which discussed some of the potential options England will likely have at their disposal in 2021 - to reveal how he would expect the team to line up.

Atherton's England XI for 2021: Keaton Jennings, Haseeb Hameed, Joe Root, Ollie Pope, Jonny Bairstow, Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler, Saqib Mahmood, Tom Helm, Jamie Overton, Jack Leach.

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There is a solid mix of raw-talent and experience within this XI, but notable absentees must be mentioned.

The Curran brothers and Dom Bess are left out which is certainly surprising considering their significant contributions in their albeit brief Test careers to date.

Mark Wood (28) is also a surprise exclusion, although he has suffered from a variety of injuries over the year, when healthy, he is a dominant and could act as a mentor to young fast bowlers Jamie Overton and Tom Helm.

ECB Pace Programme

Of course, by that point, Steve Smith will be well settled back into the Australian team after serving his year-long ban for ball tampering and will go into the series with the confidence that the last time he faced England on Australian soil, he was an unstoppable force at the crease.

England will need to ease these youngsters into the team over the next year-or-so to have any chance of mounting a challenge to Australia in 2021.

The trio of Cook, Anderson and Broad will certainly be crucial to the development of the next generation of players coming through. In fact, the effect they have mentoring their potential successors now may just have an impact when Joe Root and co. seek revenge in three years' time. inexperienced players but I believe it will be time for a curtain call for all three legends prior to 2021.

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