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

PROMOTED VIDEO
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

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links