We go again.
Plenty of senior players will probably have moved on: Moeen Ali will be 34, Stuart Broad 35, Alastair Cook 36 and James Anderson 39.
So who will be the new generation tasked with winning the urn?
Age at the start of the next Ashes in Australia: 24
Regressed in 2017 after a sparkling breakthrough season and an impressive Test debut in Rajkot, but his raw talent dictates that he will surely get another chance soon. In terms of pure opening technique, he has few peers in the county game, and he will be the ideal replacement for Alastair Cook when he finally calls it a day, if not before. Could even be England’s last ever Test match specialist. Nick Gubbins of Middlesex could also stake a claim.
The one genuine wildcard selection, but it is a measure of how highly rated the left-handed Middlesex opener is that Angus Fraser has described him as “one of the most exciting young cricketers in the country”. Scored his maiden Championship century on loan at Northants last summer, and helped break the England under-19 partnership record in February, putting on 321 with George Bartlett in Nagpur. Is gaining experience of Australian conditions, too: currently playing grade cricket with Wanneroo in Western Australia.
Has already shown in this series that he has the desire and the temperament to make runs at Test level, and in the absence of genuine batting alternatives, could cement a place in the middle order for the next few years, injuries and form permitting. Could also be a long-term option at No3, which is where he has batted for Middlesex in the past.
Still captain? We think so. Root has had a tough tour as captain and batsman, but his career trajectory to date indicates he should have the capacity to bounce back. The eventual retirements of Cook, Broad and Anderson may well help him in the long run, allowing him to build his own side and stamp his authority on the dressing room.
Already capped by England at Twenty20 level, but his big-hitting style belies the fact that his red-ball record is actually exceptional: an average of close to 50, with six centuries in the last couple of years. Big-game temperament is the only question mark: he has immense power and all the shots in the book, and also bowls handy leg-spin to provide a potential sixth bowling option. Dan Lawrence of Essex, Joe Clarke of Worcestershire and Sam Northeast of Kent might also be in the frame.
You can’t bank on him calming down - did Botham? did Flintoff? - but we can at least bank on him keeping his nose clean enough to make a belated second Ashes tour. Assuming Stokes slots neatly back into international cricket after his Bristol shenanigans and is not serving time at Her Majesty’s Pleasure, he will become an even more pivotal part of this side as they adapt to the loss of their two long-serving new-ball bowlers. It is why talk of him moving up the order to No5 or even higher is probably off the mark: England need Stokes’s bowling as much as they do his brutal batting.
An area in which England should hopefully have plenty of competition. Ben Foakes is very highly rated, as is Alex Davies of Lancashire, or even Jos Buttler if he ever decides to take red-ball cricket seriously again. But we’re backing Bairstow to keep his place on the basis of his rapid development in Test cricket over the last two years. Wicket-keepers who can make centuries on a regular basis are as rare as red squirrels these days, and as Bairstow graduates into one of the senior players in the side, it could well be the making of him.
Will be back stronger for his Ashes disappointment this time round, and given the advances he has made in his game over the last few years, it is not impossible to see him taking the new ball for England in the very near future. Spent most of his early years striving for extra pace, which means he still has plenty of room for improvement when it comes to moving the ball and adapting his attack on unhelpful surfaces. England will need him to kick on.
Struggled in the Championship in 2017, and still currently lacking the robustness required for international cricket. But once he develops them, England will fast-track him into the Test side at the earliest opportunity. For Curran is that most precious of assets: a left-arm fast bowler with an ability to swing the ball into the right-hander. Must get enough red-ball cricket to hone his skills, but ultimately could have a higher ceiling than his older brother Tom.
Struggled in the Championship in 2017, and still currently lacking the robustness required for international cricket. But once he develops them, England will fast-track him into the Test side at the earliest opportunity. For Overton is that most precious of assets: a 90mph fast bowler who can deliver the ball with pace and bounce from his 6ft 5in height. Must get enough red-ball cricket to hone his skills, but ultimately could have a higher ceiling than his older twin Craig. Middlesex’s Tom Helm, Sussex’s George Garton and Worcestershire’s Josh Tongue are three others to watch out for.
It seems unlikely at best that England will entrust their spin duties to Moeen Ali for a second consecutive Ashes tour, and in any case history has shown that finger spinners rarely perform to their potential in Australia. In which case, the spotlight will fall on the Hampshire leg-spinner Crane, who bowls the occasional expensive spell but attacks rather than defends, and whose attitude is highly rated by the England management. If you think he’s promising now, imagine what he could do with another four years’ development. You just hope county cricket nurtures rather than neuters him.
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