Cricket

The Ashes: England squad profiles

Ahead of the first Ashes Test between Australia and England at the Gabba in Brisbane, we profile each member of the touring party.

England will be seeking to secure only their second Ashes triumph on Australian soil in 31 years as the famous foes prepare to write the latest chapter in cricket's greatest rivalry.

Much of the pre-series talk has centred around the participation, or otherwise, of star England all-rounder Ben Stokes after his late-night incident in Bristol in September.

Away from the speculation over Stokes' potential involvement, England's problems regarding their top order persist - with numbers two, three and five still yet to be claimed with any degree of conviction by numerous contenders.

Here, we take a look at the touring party and what they have to offer, starting with one man who was dropped during the last Ashes tour but is now guaranteed his place in the side...

 

BATSMEN

Joe Root (capt, Yorkshire) - Age: 26, Tests: 60, Ave: 53.76 

Succeeded Alastair Cook as Test captain following the 4-0 defeat to India at the end of 2016. Scored 190 in his first innings as skipper against South Africa at Lord's to set England on their way to a 3-1 series win. Questions were asked of his leadership as West Indies chased down 322 on day five at Headingley in August, and England will hope the monumental challenge of a tour Down Under so early in his captaincy career will not affect his status as the side's best batsman.

Alastair Cook (Essex) - Age: 32, Tests: 147, Ave: 46.33

Now unburdened by the weight of the captaincy, England will be hoping Cook can put in performances akin to those that provided the backbone of that 2010-11 win. Seven years ago, Cook made three hundreds in amassing a scarcely believable 766 runs at 127.66, although as skipper last time Down Under he could only muster 246. Various opening partners have come and gone in recent years, but the unflappable Cook is too single-minded to let that affect his own game.

Mark Stoneman (Surrey) - Age: 30, Tests: 3, Ave: 30.00

A long-respected figure on the county scene, Stoneman finally earned international recognition on the back of four centuries and 1,156 runs at 60.84 for Surrey in 2017. His transition to the Test-match arena did not go quite as planned - 120 runs from five knocks against West Indies is hardly 'pick me' form. However, Stoneman was retained for the Ashes tour - amid a paucity of other options - and impressed in England's warm-up matches, albeit against modest opposition.

James Vince (Hampshire) - Age: 26, Tests: 7, Ave: 19.27

England's decision to select Vince was greeted with surprise by many. Given a run of seven Tests last year, he scored only 212 runs without a fifty and his 2017 county form was far from outstanding, with 626 runs at 32.95. Nevertheless, the selectors have clearly seen something in Vince, who looks set to take the number three spot as England decide to keep Root at four.

Dawid Malan (Middlesex) - Age: 30, Tests: 5, Ave: 23.62

First called up against South Africa in July as England attempted to solve their conundrum at number five. Struggled against the Proteas, but did record a couple of half-centuries against West Indies in the subsequent series. His Test-match mettle will be severely examined by Australia's barrage of quicks, with Malan seemingly in pole position to feature ahead of Gary Ballance at the Gabba.

Gary Ballance (Yorkshire) - Age: 27, Tests: 23, Ave: 37.45

A big mate of Root's, Ballance has been in and out of the side after making his debut against Australia in Sydney at the end of the last Ashes tour. Four hundreds in his first nine Tests represented a hugely encouraging start, but since the home series with New Zealand he has averaged just 19 in 12 appearances. A broken finger cut short his participation in this year's home Tests, but struggles elsewhere in the top order could see him earn another recall.

 

WICKETKEEPERS

Jonny Bairstow (Yorkshire) - Age: 28, Tests: 45, Ave: 39.77

Has developed immeasurably and any lingering questions over whether he or Jos Buttler should be given the gloves have long since disappeared. Since his maiden century at Cape Town in January 2016, Bairstow averages more than 50 across his 24 Tests. Could be promoted to help solve England's top-order problems - something he says he is happy to do - and his wicketkeeping has improved at the same rate as his batting. Australia will face a man at the top of his game.

Ben Foakes (Surrey) - Age: 24, Tests: 0, Ave: N/A

Alongside Mason Crane and Craig Overton, Foakes is a Test novice. His performances for Surrey in the 2017 County Championship - where he scored 680 runs at 42.50 - earned him a maiden call-up, but with Bairstow as England's undisputed number one, he will only be handed a first cap in the event of the Yorkshireman suffering injury or being selected as a specialist batsman.

 

ALL-ROUNDERS

Moeen Ali (Worcestershire) - Age: 30, Tests: 44, Bat Ave: 34.66, Bwl Ave: 37.32

Has established himself as one of the first names on the teamsheet, despite continuing to refer to himself as "a batsman who bowls a bit". Moeen has proved himself far more than that, finishing off South Africa with a hat-trick at The Oval before his unbeaten 75 followed by a five-wicket haul clinched the series at Old Trafford. Ben Stokes' likely absence means Moeen - a key cog in a formidable engine room that has driven much of England's recent success - will move up from eight.

Chris Woakes (Warwickshire) - Age: 28, Tests: 18, Bat Ave: 32.14, Bwl Ave: 30.60

Perhaps England's most under-rated operator, Woakes has established himself among England's best frontline seamers and also proved his ample ability with the bat on more than one occasion. Arguably the best number nine in world cricket, Woakes is likely to move up a place in the event of Stokes' absence, and will be asked to step up to the role of premier all-rounder, leaving England the option of selecting another out-and-out seamer.

Ben Stokes (Durham) - Age: 26, Tests: 39, Bat Ave: 35.72, Bwl Ave: 33.93

Included in the squad despite the ongoing police investigation after he was arrested on suspicion of causing actual bodily harm on a night out in Bristol during the ODI series against West Indies in September. The ECB announced in October that Stokes would not travel "at this stage" and the saga has been a most unwelcome distraction for the touring party. Stokes' participation - or otherwise - could make the difference between glory and failure for England.

 

BOWLERS

James Anderson (Lancashire) - Age: 35, Tests: 129, Ave: 27.39

Anderson's record speaks for itself. England's all-time leading Test wicket-taker became just the third seamer after Glenn McGrath and Courtney Walsh to pass the 500 mark. He averages a less than impressive 36 with the ball against Australia, but England will hope for a repeat of his stellar 2010-11 series, when he took 24 wickets at 26. Still fit as a fiddle at the age of 35, the gruelling five-match schedule should pose few problems and his new-ball partnership with Stuart Broad will be pivotal.

Stuart Broad (Nottinghamshire) - Age: 31, Tests: 109, Ave: 28.81

The man Australians love to hate after his refusal to walk during the 2013 Ashes Test at Trent Bridge. Broad was given a predictably hostile reception when he returned Down Under later that year, and his time with Hobart Hurricanes in the Big Bash League is unlikely to have appeased many Baggy Green supporters. Nevertheless, a man with 388 Test wickets cannot be underestimated, and Australia are more than aware of his propensity for game-changing spells. He famously took 5-37 at The Oval in 2009, while a fantastic return of 8-15 at Trent Bridge in 2015 will live long in the memory of those who witnessed it.

Jake Ball (Nottinghamshire) - Age: 26, Tests: 3, Ave: 114

Made his debut against Pakistan in July 2016, having impressed for Nottinghamshire in removing both Root and former England opener Adam Lyth twice, as well as Ballance and Bairstow, in a County Championship fixture against Yorkshire in May of that year. His three Test outings to date have yielded just two wickets, but he has become a regular fixture in the one-day set-up and could see plenty of action over the coming weeks.

Craig Overton (Somerset) - Age: 23, Tests: 0, Ave: N/A

Something of a surprise selection, Overton is competing for the fourth seamer role in Stokes' absence. He took 46 County Championship wickets at 22.39 in 2017 and his Somerset coach Matthew Maynard says he has matured after some "childish, petulant" incidents during the earlier stages of his career. His Ashes inclusion comes two years after he was banned for two matches by the ECB for allegedly directing a racist remark towards Ashar Zaidi - allegations Overton denied.

Mason Crane (Hampshire)- Age: 20, Tests: 0, Ave: N/A

One of three uncapped players in the squad, many were surprised to see Crane chosen ahead of fellow leg-spinner Adil Rashid. Crane made his international debut in a Twenty20 against South Africa in June but with England likely to select Moeen as their sole frontline spinner for much of the series, the 20-year-old could find himself carrying the drinks for long periods. No stranger to Australia despite his tender years, Crane became the first overseas player to represent New South Wales in 32 years when he made his Sheffield Shield debut in March.

Tom Curran (Surrey) - Age: 22, Tests: 0, Ave: N/A

A late call-up after Steven Finn suffered a tour-ending injury prior to England's first match in Australia, Curran is the eldest of two brothers who have starred in county cricket for Surrey. Both he and younger sibling Sam, 19, have been tipped for bright careers at the highest level and cricketing talent certainly runs in the family; their late father, Kevin, played 11 one-day internationals for Zimbabwe. More of an out-and-out bowler than Sam, a hugely promising all-rounder, Tom Curran has already played four limited-overs matches for England and took 3-33 on his Twenty20 debut against South Africa in June.