Despite extraneous distractions, England will on Thursday announce the squad they intend to retain the Ashes. If there is less fanfare than might be expected, there are two reasons. Most of the 16 players in the squad could be named by the selectors' great grandmothers, with only two, at most three places in contention. And there is also the wretched matter of match-rigging which continues to dog the game.
But pick a team to return with the great prize they must, and the selectors will have gone about their work in a mood of optimism. England are becoming a team who are both hard to beat and believe they can win.
They will name 16 players in the main party, probably comprising seven batsmen, five seam bowlers with various skills, two spinners and two wicketkeepers. In addition there will be a Performance Programme squad, an unnecessarily unwieldy name for a group who will be based in Australia providing permanent cover.
The ECB clearly have the money to take no risks and are taking none. Do not think for a moment that the management will be afraid to pick a Performance player for a Test match.
The batsmen in the main party will take as long as it takes to write down seven names. Ian Bell, now recovered from the foot injury which has forced him to miss the second half of the season, will be added to the six who played in the Tests against Pakistan.
After that, there is room for argument. Three seamers are certainties – Jimmy Anderson, Stuart Broad and Steve Finn – and two others should be. But Ajmal Shahzad and especially Tim Bresnan, who has done many of the hard yards for England recently, are under pressure from Chris Tremlett, who did well for Surrey and has a quality that coaches like which may be important in Australia, the ability to extract steep bounce from a length. Bresnan would still be unlucky.
Monty Panesar may have done enough for Sussex to warrant the second spinners' berth as a reserve for Graeme Swann, but if two spinners are needed in a match, Adil Rashid could possibly be summoned.
Early in the summer, Craig Kieswetter might have edged ahead as the second keeper, but that spot in the most hotly contested area of the team will be taken by Steve Davies.
However, this being an Ashes squad, a surprise or two, even from these selectors, can be expected.Reuse content