Off the back of a home Ashes series win for England there are still many questions unanswered ahead of the squad being named for the tour to Australia this winter.
While many of the names pick themselves, there are certainly positions of doubt within the touring party.
It is worth remembering that England will also take a performance squad to Australia, which will be filled with fringe players and young prospects who can be drafted in to the main squad at any time.
This takes some pressure of the selectors, but a main 16 or 17 man squad must be picked for the first test in Brisbane on November 21st. To that end I have selected a 17 man squad, who I would take in to that first test at The Gabba.
Alistair Cook (Capt.) – A very easy selection. Obviously as captain, Cook is the first name on the team sheet. His last tour to Australia was a run fest for the Essex man, and he will be hoping to bounce back from an indifferent home series where his captaincy has been questioned and he has scored very few runs, with a strong showing down under.
Burst on to the England scene by scoring plenty of runs in the middle order. He was promoted to open the batting in this home Ashes series and apart from one huge innings of 180 at Lords, the Yorkshire batsmen has struggled. While I feel certain the selectors will retain Root at the top of the innings, I would have no objection to moving him back to the middle order. A certainty for the trip.
Another who filled his boots last time in Australia and another certainty to start in Brisbane at number three. He is a solid performer who rarely gets pulses racing but scores plenty of runs. He too has struggled though in this series and Australia seem to have worked out a weakness on his pads.
Another who picks himself. Pietersen seems to have put his troubles of the last year behind him and has performed pretty well in this home series. The only thing that could stop him batting number four in Brisbane is fitness. He is carrying a slight knee injury which may prove to be a problem.
Without doubt the star of this series. Bell has shown his class and temperament to score stacks of runs, over 500 in this series, comfortably more than any other batsmen on show. Another automatic pick.
The first contentious pick in my squad. The Hampshire batsmen has been around the England set up for may years and deserves to be given a chance. At 32 he is no young hopeful but has a solid technique at the top of the order but also capable of batting in the middle. I would have him in the starting eleven in Brisbane, either at number two of number six. Carberry is dynamic, free scoring but also capable of playing a cautious innings and deserves to at least be on the plane.
Averaging 72.13 in County Championship Division Two this season, Ali is the form man. If you want to pick a back up batsman, the best man in form must be the one to pick. He may be a surprising choice to many, but Ali would be the man I would take as my back up batsman.
Another very straightforward choice, Prior is the man who has been in possession of the gloves for a long time and there seems to be no reason to change that. He has had a very disappointing home series but is still safely the number one keeper/batsman.
Again, maybe a surprise selection. Jonny Bairstow would be the obvious choice for many. However Bairstow has had a chance in this series, playing the first four tests and not really grabbing his chance, leading to being dropped in the final game. Let him go away and work on his technique, then bring him back when more experienced.
Steven Davies has played well in the red ball game for Surrey this year, averaging over fifty. He is solid with the gloves and deserves a return to the England team. As a positive batsman, he would seem to be a natural Prior replacement, should injury occur.
One of the first names of the team sheet, Anderson is the leader of the attack, one of the worlds best bowlers and simply picks himself.
Injury will be the only thing stopping Bresnan from being in the 17. He has been ruled out of the rest of the season with a back injury and that will be a concern. While not really an exciting bowler, he does a solid job and can bat, so is an automatic pick.
Capable of brilliance but so often produces drivel. Woefully inconsistent for England but is another player who will make the plane, thanks in part again to his ability to bat. Needs to show more consistency in Australia than he has in this home series.
He was a key figure for England when they claimed the Ashes down under last time. Tall, fast and aggressive he is perfect for Australian conditions. He has however not played a test for 18 months and his stats in county cricket and uninspiring. Definitely has to be in the touring party however.
Has been treated appallingly by England in recent years and is suffering from a lack of confidence as a result. Troubles with his run up, coupled with England worrying about his economy rate mean that Finn has been pushed out of the England team. He is though a natural wicket taker, bowing fast and aggressively. In my opinion is more worthy of a starting place in Brisbane than Broad, Bresnan or Tremlett, but cannot see Flower and Cook trusting the Middlesex man.
Another who may well feel aggrieved at his treatment by England. Should certainly have played at his home ground of Durham during this series and is consistently overlooked by this England set up. He must surely be taken in the 17 as a back up seam option.
Probably the worlds best spinner, Swann is an automatic choice. He is a top drawer bowler and essential to the success of this England team and will be a certain first choice.
I hear cries of derision at this one. My defence is that England are not blessed with many spin options. Monty Panesar is without doubt a better bowler but has had well documented off-field problems and would be better used on the development tour playing cricket rather than sitting around and carrying the drinks.
Kerrigan has had a superb year for Lancashire and although has struggled horribly on test debut at the Oval is a player I would take as a back up spinner. Panesar can always be brought in once his mental state and form has been assessed.
Development Squad Players
There are number of certainties to be on the development tour. I have taken a look at some of the players who are close to making the first 17. These include Gary Ballance (Yorks), James Taylor (Notts), Monty Panesar (Essex), Varun Chopra (Warks), Craig Kieswetter (Som’set), James Tredwell (Kent), Boyd Rankin (Warks), Chris Woakes (Warks), Jonny Bairstow (Yorks), Nick Compton (Som’set).
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