The Ashes Delorean: Predict the 2017/18 Teams

With the Ashes safely in the bag, thoughts have now turned to the UAE and South Africa. But should England be thinking even further ahead? The raison d’être of English cricket is to beat the Australians. Once one Ashes series finishes, the planning for the next one should start. This month begins a new cycle that culminates with the 2017/18 tour down under.

This is why I would be against Moeen Ali opening in the UAE. He’s never going to be anything more than a stopgap opener (because his frailty against the short ball will be exposed elsewhere in the world) so why bother? England should begin their search for a permanent partner for Cook now.

With this in mind, I thought it would be fun to predict the two line-ups in the next Ashes series. Which twenty-two cricketers will take the field at the Gabba in November 2017? That’s two years and one month from now. England’s team will look somewhat different from the one that played this year. Australia’s team will be dramatically different.

Here’s my best guess what the England side will be: Alastair Cook, Alex Lees, Joe Root (capt), Sam Hain, Gary Ballance, Ben Stokes, Moeen Ali, Ben Foakes (wct), Stuart Broad, Mark Wood, Reece Topley

As you can see, I think Ian Bell and Jimmy Anderson will retire before the 2017 Ashes. I think Moeen’s bowling will improve enough to sustain his run in the side (finger spinners usually struggle down under anyway, so I can’t see us blooding a newbie), while Ben Foakes will replace Buttler as our specialist test keeper. Jos will continue to be a star in ODIs and T20s though.

I also think Cook will have relinquished the captaincy. England aren’t yet good enough to prosper in all conditions, so I expect us to lose the odd series between now and then. The inevitable criticism that will come Cook’s way will persuade him to pass the torch to Root. He’ll probably also endure another poor patch of batting form at some point – this is the way with most batsmen, especially Alastair – so I think he’ll decide to ‘focus on his batting’ at some point.

As for the rest of the batting, I’m backing Alex Lees to mature into a very good test opener in time. His elevation to the side would be no stop-gap; it would be an investment for the next ten years. I’ve also backed Gary Ballance to bring, err, balance to the middle-order. He’s more of a natural five than a three, and I think he’ll come back strongly after working on his technique. Although he looked poor in this summer’s Ashes, he looked no worse than Alastair Cook did last year. You know what they say: form is temporary but class is permanent.

The other new face is Sam Hain. In case you’re not familiar with the Warwickshire man, he’s only just turned twenty years old but has already scored almost 1,500 first class runs at an average of 46 (with six hundreds). That’s pretty special. His inclusion would also irritate the Aussies big time: Hain was born in Hong Kong to English parents but was brought up in Australia. He even represented Australia’s U19 … as a sixteen year old! That’s some going.

When it comes to the bowling, I was tempted to throw in a tearaway quick like Tymal Mills or Jamie Overton, but I’m not sure they’ll stay fit. It’s a shame, as Australia’s attack is likely to have plenty of firepower. Mark Wood is probably the quickest bowler we’ll have (as long as he can maintain his own fitness). I’ve also gone for Reece Topley as the third specialist seamer. England seem infatuated with left-armers and I expect Topley to put on a yard of pace by the time he’s 24. Remember this side is the one I expect to play, not necessarily the one I’d choose.

Predicting the Australian side is a lot harder. There’s a real dearth of genuine batting talent, but the bowling remains strong. Here’s my best guess: David Warner, Cameron Bancroft, Steve Smith (capt), Joe Burns, Chris Lynn, Mitch Marsh, Matthew Wade (wct), Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins, Nathan Lyon.

The first thing that will strike you is just how many new batsmen the Aussies have. They don’t have a choice though. They could go back to Usman Khawaja, but he’s never really convinced at test level. His first class average is also going backwards.

Of the new batsmen, only Bancroft seems like a natural test player. He’s a bit of a throwback: young, talented, but patient rather than reckless. He certainly seems like a good foil for David Warner. Australia need more batsmen capable of digging in.

Joe Burns and Chris Lynn are solid but unspectacular players at this moment, but they’re still young enough to improve and make an impact at the highest level. As Ian Chappell has said on many occasions, the Aussies aren’t exactly blessed in the batting department. Then again, England’s line-up probably won’t frighten anyone either.

As for the keeper, you’ll see I’ve settled on a familiar face. There are obviously other candidates like Peter Handscomb (a name for teenagers to have a bit of fun with) and the incumbent Peter Nevill, but I feel that Matthew Wade deserves another go. He certainly has his admirers around the world. His current test average is better than Haddin’s too. Wade already has two test hundreds.

Unfortunately, the Aussie attack still looks rather tasty. If Pat Cummins can stay fit their battery of pacemen will be formidable. Thankfully this is a big ‘if’. If I was in the insurance business like my old man I wouldn’t touch him with a barge pole.

Darren Lehmann (if he’s still in charge) might be a little concerned about that tail though. Maybe Ashton Agar can oust Lyon as the team’s specialist spinner? That would certainly help. England’s lower order has the edge in terms of wag-ability.

Of course, if my projections are correct, we’ll be finally waving goodbye to Mitchell Johnson before the next Ashes. He’ll be 36 on the 2nd November 2017 – high time our Freddy Mercury resembling friend broke free and joined that Queen tribute band he’s been auditioning for.

The question is, will Australia be ‘under pressure’ in his absence, or will England’s Ashes prospects down under ‘bite the dust’ once more? I’ll get my coat.

James Morgan



  • Good call on Sam Hain.

    There are a few good youngsters – I think Craig Overton is more promising than his brother.

    Also what about an outside shot for the Curran boys? Although two years may be a little too soon..

    • My first thought was about the Curran boys. I’m sure a good eye will be kept on them.

      Don’t know about the keeper. Will have to consider it further.

      • I gave Foakes the nod because his form this year has been very good and hes been on the selectors radar for some time. He strikes me as one of those earmarked from a young age type players. Im still not convinced by Bairstow’s batting technique, although I think he’s currently a better bet than Buttler imho.

  • “The raison d’être of English cricket is to beat the Australians. Once one Ashes series finishes, the planning for the next one should start. ”

    God, I really, really, hate this attitude. This obsession with one particular opponent is weird and unhealthy, like Liverpool fans who don’t care if they get relegated as long as they beat United.

    Fortunately, I don’t actually think it is that common. Certainly most genuine cricket fans I know care just as much if not more about beating Pakistan and South Africa. It seems to mainly be the casual fans and the hooray henry types that are only interested in beating the aussies and don’t really watch cricket when the ashes aren’t on.

    • 100% agree about the obsession with Australia.

      I’d be slightly more charitable with the explanation though – I think it’s more because a generation of fans grew up between 1989 and 2005 who were used to Australia being clearly the best side in the world.

      • Yes, and I think a lot of people got confused between how beating Australia was the ultimate test at that point in time and it being the ultimate test in general.

        But then I grew up during that period, and I was equally excited about beating West Indies, Pakistan and South Africa.

        Other teams I expected to beat, but there was still satisfaction in doing so – and disappointment if it all went wrong.

        • I didn’t mean to imply some kind of obsession! I’m just pointing out that the Ashes is the biggest series in English cricket, and the end of an Ashes series often ends one natural cycle for the two teams and begins another. It’s a bit like the Olympics or World Cups in football. I’m not saying that all the series in between are meaningless – far from it (tussles with South Africa for example are always big) – but selectors need to keep the biggest prize at the back of their minds. For example, this year’s Six Nations was an important tournament in itself, but the World Cup overshadowed it to some extent. It was always there in the background.

          • But I don’t agree that it is the biggest prize. I don’t consider beating Australia any more important that beating South Africa, for example.

            • That’s fair enough if it’s your view. I imagine a lot of people feel differently though. I enjoy beating the Saffers, but enjoy Aussie bashing even more :-)

              • I polled all the guys at the cricket club, and most of us feel the same.

                The dream scenario in test cricket has always been to have a five year run in which you beat every team, home and away. The same group of players winning every series against every possible opposition in every possible set of cricketing conditions.

                A few teams have come close recently. Has any team ever achieved this?

              • West Indies 1980-85 beat England, Australia and India home and away. They beat NZ at home and Pakistan away. They didn’t play the reverse fixtures against the last two (although when they did the series were drawn).

                They wouldn’t lose a series until 1994/95. They were certainly the greatest side I’ve ever seen.

                England had a n exceptional record 1951-58. They played every team home and away except Pakistan away and didn’t lose a series.

  • ” I was tempted to throw in a tearaway quick like Tymal Mills”.

    In May it was reported he may have to retire from f/c cricket because of a congenital back condition. He played three early season f/c matches and has had a couple of List A games since where his figures were horrendous (plus some T20). He’s in the Lions’ squad. Can anyone explain?

    A few other points:
    1) Australia might be tempted to repeat what worked with Chris Rogers and pick an older batsman. Michael Klinger’s name has been mentioned.
    2) James says he is identifying the team he thinks they will pick but then has left out Buttler and Finn who, as regular readers will have spotted, James has major doubts about. I think the England set-up rate those two (especially Buttler) and they’ll be in Australia.
    3) Michael Vaughan picked his equivalent team on the BBC website not long ago and he had Joe Clarke at No.3.

    • Thanks. I missed Michael Vaughan’s picks, but thanks to your mentioning them found them on ‘The Telegraph’:

      ‘The Telegraph’ have turned it into one of those irksome one-player-per-page slideshow thingies, so in case anybody else is interested, Vaughan’s full 2017 team is:

      1 Alastair Cook, 2 Daniel Bell-Drummond, 3 Joe Clarke, 4 Joe Root*, 5 Ben Stokes, 6 Moeen Ali/Zafar Ansari, 7 Jos Buttler†, 8 Adil Rashid, 9 Stuarty Broad, 10 Mark Wood, 11 Steve Finn/Matthew FIsher

      • i’m very surprised by Vaughan’s team. As a Worcs fan I’m very exited about Joe Clarke but he’s only played ten first class matches! He’s also a keeper, so not sure he’ll be batting 3 with Buttler in the same side. I also find the inclusion of Bell Drummond odd. I’ve seen him a couple of times and was pretty unimpressed to be honest. Here’s a little comparison between Bell Drummond and my man Sam Hain.

        Bell Drummond: Age 22. Matches 55, 2800 runs, tons 7, average 32
        Sam Hain: Age 20. Matches 22, 1400 runs, tons 6, average 44.

        I know one is an opener, and the other a middle order player, but there’s really no comparison. I’m also amazed he has Stokes at 5!

    • That’s a bit harsh Simon. It was a toss up between Ballance and Taylor for the number 5 spot in my team, and I decided to go with the Yorkshire man. I imagine Taylor will be in the squad. I’m not entirely convinced by him yet, but I have an open mind. Re: Finn I was torn between Wood and Finn, but decided to go for the former because he’s a little quicker. Had I picked a full squad of 16, then both Finn and Taylor would’ve been in it.

      • Reply to Smylers: glad you found the mention useful. :)

        I wasn’t of course necessarily endorsing Vaughan’s selections….

        Reply to James: I didn’t say anything about Taylor!

        I think you’re right about Ballance. However you may have noticed that certain ‘good journalists’ have started criticising him for allegedly not working on his game (i.e. resisting changes to his technique proposed by England coaches).

        • Apologies Buttler! It was PofP who mentioned Taylor. Unless Jos changes his technique, and becomes a little less bottom handed, I think his test career might fizzle out against the big boys. The problem is, his method is what makes him so great to watch in the limited overs stuff, so in a way it would be a shame to change him.

          • Buttler averaged 40+ against NZ who have a very good attack.

            I think (hope?) his batting decline against Australia was more a mixture of too much emphasis on his keeping plus mental tiredness rather than faulty technique.

              • Lyth failed in three of his four innings against NZ. He made a century in the first innings on his home ground while conditions were at their best and the NZ bowlers were coming to terms with its unique demands.

                The NZ Test attack is a very good one. Boult bowled consistently better than any of the Aussie seamers. One thing they didn’t have was an off-spinner who bowls round the wicket which has become a weakness of Buttler’s – but neither have Pakistan (nor probably the Saffers).

  • Agree with your Aussie list mostly although after captaining Australia A in the india series recently I think they are keen to give Usman Khawaja a good run in the team – . How he turns out and whether he will be there in two years is anyone’s guess. Wade’s keeping is still regarded as a bit marginal for Tests, and he didn’t do himself any favours in the recent ODI’s on that front. Wade is I think the better batsman, but if Nevill can retain a 30+ average I think he will remain 1st pick.

    With regard the bowlers, Lyon will have to either have a form slump with Agar doing something pretty special to oust him. Siddle may be there in place of one of the Paceman of course. Pattinson is also a chance should he get back to his best with his changed action. Johnson very unlikely.


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