With the World Cup triumph in the rear-view mirror, it’s time to think ahead to The Ashes. And first up we have a one-off test against Ireland. The game should be an occasion in itself, although I’m sure England will have one eye on the Aussies. After all, the selectors have decided to rest a couple of key players: Jos Butter and Ben Stokes. Meanwhile, Jofra Archer has a sore side and needs to rest for an as yet unspecified period of time.
The absence of Archer, plus Mark Wood, who has broken down yet again, is a massive shame. Having the World Cup this close to the Ashes was always going to take its toll, and it looks like irritating injuries to our two fastest bowlers are the price we’ve paid. I was really looking forward to the Archer / Wood axis unleashing hell on the Australian batsmen. Now it seems we’ll have to wait until at least the second test. The bookies don’t think it will affect our chances though. If you bet on England you’ll enjoy a nice Bet365 bonus for the sign up. This might change, however, if we somehow contrive to lose against the Irish because we’re still nursing nasty World Cup hangovers. I can’t see this happening though.
So who have England included instead of Stokes, Buttler, and Archer? Unfortunately there’s no Ben Foakes, even in the pre-Ashes ‘camp’. Instead the selectors are happy with Bairstow alone which seems a shame. I wondered if they would move Jonny up the order and give Foakes another go, especially as Jonny’s bound to score a century if he’s forced to relinquish the gloves and has another tantrum.
The interesting names in the squad this time are Olly Stone, who seems like a natural replacement for Archer, and the slightly more leftfield appearance of Lewis Gregory. I really like Gregory as a cricketer, and he’s having an outstanding season with Somerset, but I’m not entirely sure he should be in the test squad. I see his inclusion as a reflection of (a) Ed Smith’s flawed fetish for all-rounders, and (b) his desire to recognise outstanding achievement in the championship. Personally I’d prefer the selectors to focus on specialists who can make an impact all over the world. I don’t see how the selection of archetypal medium-fast English seamers achieves that really but never mind.
With that sentiment in mind I’m thrilled that Stone is still on the selectors’ radar. He’s fast and nasty and exactly what we need. I’m also chuffed that Jack Leach has been included – although Moeen Ali will surely get the nod if they only pick one spinner. Although Leach is a better bowler than Mo, one can’t argue with the latter’s record in England.
The other noteworthy inclusions in the squad are Jimmy Anderson and Joe Denly. I’m not sure why Jimmy has been included because he’s nursing an injury. Surely the management won’t take any chances with our best bowler? Meanwhile, Denly is a player who continues to divide opinion. His appearance in this squad suggests that he’s odds on to bat at 3 in the Ashes.
What do you make of Denly? I’m torn. Like Ed Smith I rated him highly as a youngster and I’ve always been surprised that he never fulfilled his potential. He’s obviously a frustrating player but I do think his batting still possesses a touch of class sometimes. We’re not exactly blessed when it comes to alternatives either; so why not give Denly another go? The alternative was probably James Vince, who’s a very similar player who has had even more opportunities without convincing anyone.
Finally I should briefly mention Jason Roy. It looks like, as expected, he’ll be parachuted into the Ashes team as a specialist opener on the back of his World Cup performances – despite having never opened in a first class game for Surrey. He batted at 3 in a couple of games last year but that’s as high as he’s been without suffering a nosebleed.
I really don’t know what to make of Roy’s selection. I don’t like it in many ways but equally I recognise that options are thin on the ground. Why not give the bloke a go? He’s got the talent. I just hope we see the Roy who looked so dominant against India and Australia (when the pitches were flat) rather than the one who struggled in the final against New Zealand (when the ball moved around).
Roy’s success will probably depend on the conditions again I expect. Well, if he’s going to be England’s Virender Sehwag then he might as well be as Virender Sehwag-ish as possible.
Written in collaboration with BR Agency