Ashes squad: Five places are left so England's selectors have room for innovation

 

For the past few days, as Durham deftly annexed a Championship title with a spirit of community that can be neither bottled nor bought, there was a pressing question in the shires: what is the team for Brisbane going to be?

Fascinating though this exercise proved, it was to get ahead of ourselves. Before England determine their XI for the first Test at the Gabba on 21 November in the second Ashes series of the year, they must first conclude the squad from which it will be picked.

The selectors met in conclave yesterday and the white smoke marking the end of their deliberations will rise from Lord's tomorrow at noon. As usual where tours of Australia are concerned it will be high noon for some, low tide for others.

There will be selections not fully expected, which will be inspired or enervating depending on your preferences and possibly where you live (parochialism still thrives in cricket). When they gathered, Geoff Miller and his long-serving panel – most of whom have been together for almost six years – were not completely certain whether the party should contain 16 or 17 players.

The traditional number is 16, seven batsmen, five fast bowlers, two spinners and two wicketkeepers. With the England Performance Squad also in Australia, it is that quantity, though not necessarily quite that balance, which will probably be announced.

Five of the batsmen, four of the fast bowlers, and one each of wicketkeeper and spinner look to be foregone conclusions given the selection panel's mantra. It is easy to imagine them convening, perhaps wearing their own Test caps, liturgically intoning "continuity, continuity, continuity" and indulging in a bout of self-flagellation for departing from this moral pathway by choosing Chris Woakes and Simon Kerrigan in England's most recent Test.

Eleven down and five to go, however, leaves plenty of scope for pragmatism and innovation. The recent one-day series had the effect of suddenly promoting several players, and though the folly of choosing a Test squad based on limited-overs performance should be obvious, some made persuasive cases.

The places for the extra batsmen are probably between Jonny Bairstow, James Taylor, Eoin Morgan and Nick Compton. Bairstow batted at No 6 for most of the Ashes series, Taylor was called up at Old Trafford as cover. This makes them favourites, but not overwhelmingly so.

Taylor averages above 50 in the Championship for Nottinghamshire but has had a quiet time since his 204 not out against Sussex in mid-June.

Bairstow has been in reasonable form for Yorkshire since being overlooked for the last Test and is yet to convince as a Test batsman. Had he gone on to make a hundred, instead of being out for 95, at Lord's late last summer against South Africa, who knows what course he might have followed.

As it happens, he was left out for the next match, in India, and has not been able to reclaim his place firmly since. It may be that the selectors will entrust Bairstow to be the reserve wicketkeeper, though his work in that position has never looked incontrovertible.

Morgan has a placid nature and a confidence in his ability, but he has played a total of four first-class innings for Middlesex this summer with a highest score of 39. It would be a leap of faith and an indictment of the others were he to be picked.

Compton was unlucky to be supplanted by Joe Root at the top of the order. He played a full part in the epic victory over India last winter, scored two Test hundreds in New Zealand and did not do too much wrong except look a little short of the highest class, a state in which most exist.

The seam-bowling cadre is slightly complicated by Tim Bresnan's fitness. He has said he has recovered from a stress fracture of the back, and if the medical team agree he will be in. If not, he may be despatched with the Performance Programme to ensure full rehabilitation.

Boyd Rankin, formerly of Ireland, has overtaken Chris Tremlett as the preferred tall speed merchant with extra bounce. His sterling performances in the one-day series may be bad news for Tremlett and for Graham Onions. But Rankin may be better off with the reserves, with Steve Finn as the tall man and the dependable Onions as the go-to man in an emergency.

The second spinner is a conundrum like no other. Monty Panesar's aberrations have been well chronicled and his form for his temporary county, Essex, nothing to write home about. James Tredwell, admirable cove though he is, has been lined up and climbed into by the Australia batsmen in the ODIs. Kerrigan was bludgeoned at the Oval. Panesar it may have to be.

Nor is the wicketkeeping reserve easy to come by, if not Bairstow. An inspired pick would be Jos Buttler, so far restricted to limited overs but who has been increasingly impressive in both elements of his game. The manner in which he has adapted his batting style showed his readiness to learn quickly.

One more place is available. It should go to another member of the county champions. Ben Stokes is a genuine all-rounder, a left-handed stroke player as a batsman with wheels and reverse swing as a bowler. Now what price him being at No 6 in Brisbane?

Possible England squad

Age/Tests/Bat/Ball

Alastair Cook (c) 28/97/47.85

James Anderson 31/87/30.11

Ian Bell 31/93/46.66

Tim Bresnan 28/21/32.10

Stuart Broad 27/62/30.58

Jos Buttler 23/0

Nick Compton 30/9/31.93

Steven Finn 24/23/29.40

Graham Onions 31/9/29.90

Monty Panesar 31/48/33.78

Kevin Pietersen 33/99/48.38

Matthew Prior* 31/72/42.36

Joe Root 22/11/40.15

Ben Stokes 22/0

Graeme Swann 34/57/28.55

Jonathan Trott 32/48/47.39

*207 catches/13 stumpings

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'