England's Ashes selection: Talking points

26 September 2017 09:54

England will name their squad for the Ashes on Wednesday - 57 days before the first ball is bowled at the Gabba. Here, Press Association Sport looks at five key areas of debate.


News of Ben Stokes' arrest on suspicion of causing actual bodily harm in the early hours of Monday morning would have been met with dismay in the England ranks. That it broke just 24 hours before the squad announcement was merely the icing on the cake. While there appears no likelihood of the vice-captain being left out of the trip at this stage - the selection panel having been instructed to choose on form and fitness only - details are still scant. Discussion over Stokes will be on everybody's lips - on home turf and Down Under - from now until the start of the series.


England's attempts to lock down a settled top six have floundered for the best part of two years. Of those who were given the chance to impress this summer, Mark Stoneman and Dawid Malan probably did enough to earn their places on the plane but Keaton Jennings, Gary Ballance and Tom Westley left more questions than answers, bringing previously discarded options like Haseeb Hameed, Alex Hales, James Vince and Sam Robson into the equation. Whoever gets the nod will know they have serious improvements to make in the harshest possible environment.


Mason Crane has much to recommend him: youth, vibrancy, fearlessness and the romantic associations that travel with every up-and-coming leg-spinner. What he lacks is a formidable track record in first-class cricket or a single Test cap. With Adil Rashid seemingly typecast as a white-ball specialist now, the decision will be whether the 20-year-old Hampshire prospect would be better served by travelling with the senior team or getting game time with the Lions, who are overlapping with the start of the Ashes on their own Australian tour. If they decide the latter, Liam Dawson or another rookie, Jack Leach, could benefit.


When Mark Wood took the series-clinching wicket in the 2015 Ashes, he looked destined for a long and happy stint with the national team. But his injury-prone body has restricted him to just four Test caps since that series. He managed a solitary wicket in two appearances against South Africa this summer and the 'zip' which made him stand out from the crowd was subdued. Toby Roland-Jones' injury has taken one rival out of the equation but England's inherent preference to have Wood around is being tested by the likes of Craig Overton.


Jos Buttler is a major cog in England's white-ball side, a key batsman and heir apparent to Eoin Morgan as captain. But his Test career has stuttered so badly that his omission from every squad this summer barely registered. All of which brings Surrey wicketkeeper Ben Foakes into the mix. Aged just 24, he was marked for the top several years ago and looks primed to travel as Jonny Bairstow's understudy. In the event of injury or even a tactical reshuffle, few who have seen him at work doubt he has the glove skills to succeed.

Source: PA