A 17-man squad has been named for the 3-month journey to Australia and there have been a few shocks around those that have and haven’t made the plane trip.
The big names missing out are Nick Compton and Graham Onions; both experienced performers who have had a wonderful season with their counties. If you were to go on purely numbers, Onions bagged 66 wickets at an average of 17 to help Durham win the County Championship. While Nick Compton scored 889 runs at an average of 46 for Somerset.
Nick Compton especially has reason to be unhappy, as he was thrust in as an opener last winter to replace Andrew Strauss. He performed well, scoring two centuries against New Zealand before being unceremoniously dropped before the Ashes began earlier this year. This time around, Compton has been replaced in the squad by Michael Carberry, a man two years his elder and with only one century under his belt throughout the current season.
Graham Onions, who at the age of 31 is now considered to be at the peak of his career, will be wondering what else he has to do to get a squad place. Ahead of him, the selectors have chosen uncapped players Boyd Rankin, and the injury-returning Chris Tremlett. Neither has taken as many wickets as Onions this season, but with their height advantage (both being at 6 feet 7 inches), it is thought they will better suit the pitches down under. By adding Steven Finn and Stuart Broad to the mix, both of whom comfortably clear 6 feet 5 inches, it adds up to a fearsome attack. Although some would say a bit too one-dimensional especially if the unthinkable should happen and James Anderson gets injured.
Two uncapped players have also made the squad – Gary Ballance and Ben Stokes, both young players who’ve had wonderful seasons for their counties and broken into the England limited-over squads at the back end of the summer. Stokes is a genuine all-rounder and if the balance of the team requires it, he can bat at 6 and provide plenty of bowling. Gary Ballance will also be competing for this number 6 position as well as Jonny Bairstow, who has tenuously held the role for the past 12 months.
The question England fans are asking themselves is who will make a name for themselves when the series end in Sydney early in 2014. The newcomers to the squad will be looking to make a splash down under.
Winter Ashes Batsmen Betting Tips
Ben Stokes to be England’s top batsman – 25/1 (Stan James)
Boyd Rankin to be England’s top bowler – 10/1 (Betfred)
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By Raj Bansal