Winning the World Cup was a fantastic moment for English cricket, but the pinnacle for many still remains winning an Ashes tour, against the oldest enemy, in their back garden. England have only managed it twice in the last ten attempts. The Australian team in 2021/22 will be high class, it has a pool of world class fast bowlers led by the best in the world in Pat Cummins. Meanwhile, Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne are ranked 1st and 3rd by the ICC in the world respectively as batsman. What’s more, England need to win outright to retain the Ashes. It’ll be a massive order and the odds are against them, 4-1 at the moment, which I think is kind to England. That said, I rate the current squad and several key players will be peaking just in time for it. I think it’ll be the highest quality Ashes series in Australia in recent memory.
1, Rory Burns
Age in series: 31 // Average: 33.75
Burns was late to start his Test career but so were the likes of Andrew Strauss and there’s chat of him being made the next Test captain should Root fail again down under. An unorthodox technique but he’s shown he’s got the all important temperament for Test cricket. Succumbed to the short ball in the last few Ashes series which he’ll have to remedy to be successful down under. He’s also excellent in the cordon which is a bonus.
2, Dom Sibley
Age in series: 26// Average: 40.22
Leading run scorer in England’s recent tour of South Africa, a real find. He’s known as ‘the Fridge’ by his team mates and is not known for his fitness. He’ll need to address this if he’s to make big scores in Australian conditions. I back him to have a big series and be a future captain.
3, Zak Crawley
Age in series: 23 // Average: 27.33
There’ll be a temptation to play Pope or Root at 3 to make space for another flare batsman in the middle order. That would be a mistake. Crawley has made a decent start to test cricket and has a superb record in the county game. He also has experience of playing in Australia and may be able to stifle the Australian quicks like Trott did in 2010/11 at number 3. If the top 3 can see off the new ball, England will be able to make the 400+ scores
needed to win in Australia with a gun middle order.
4, Joe Root
Age in series: 30 // Average: 48.4
A world class batsman, but nowhere near being an England great yet. Hopefully coming in at 4, with a better top 3 will let England’s captain play to his potential
and match Steve Smith with his performances. To his credit, his captaincy and use of reviews has been excellent of late.
5, Ben Stokes
Age in series: 30// Average 38.59 // 147 wickets at 32
The best all rounder in the world, Stokes’ absence in the 2017-8 Ashes was as notable as his presence in the Ashes last summer, he was dearly missed. A fierce
competitor, he is a match winner and England need to make sure he’s fit and rested coming into the series, this includes limiting his bowling during the series. England need him to make hundreds. If he can lead England to a win down under, he may well nudge Botham off the throne as England’s greatest all rounder.
6, Ollie Pope
Age in series: 23 // Average 47.77
Completes England ridiculously talented middle order.
After an average start to his Test career, Pope has shone in the county game and returned to the Test
side in South Africa where he showed he can graft. As a young guy, best to play him at 6 where he can hopefully play with freedom but has shown he can bat long if needed.
7, Ben Foakes
Age in series: 28 // Average 41.5
It is widely accepted that Foakes is the most talented English wicket keeper and his average after 10 test innings with the bat shows he’s been unlucky to have been dropped from the team. His technique with the bat is better than Bairstow’s and should be given the chance to show his temperment is better than Buttler’s. Both Bairstow and Buttler will be breathing down his (and Pope’s) neck for a spot in the X1 but I’m backing Foakes
with the gloves in the Test side.
8, Olly Stone
Age in series: 28 // 3 wickets at 9
Yet to cement a place in the competitive England’s bowling unit but he can bowl 90+ which is crucial on the flat wickets in Australia. Mark Wood will be
breathing down his neck but is a massive injury risk, if fit these two should rotate as the Australian quicks did so well last year.
9, Jofra Archer
Age in series: 26 // 30 wickets at 27.4
If it wasn’t for Ben Stokes, 2019 may well have been Archer’s year. He bowled magnificently at times, taking plenty of wickets and unsettling batsman. He can bowl as if not quicker than any Australian, something few English bowlers have been able to say and should be a massive asset for Joe Root. It takes a lot to remove Steve Smith on a flat Australian wicket and you feel if anyone’s going to stop Smith batting England out of the series, it’ll be a fired up Archer.
10, Jack Leach
Age in series: 30 // 34 wickets at 29
This was difficult, Leach is far from being a complete spinner. Dom Bess had a strong series in South Africa and has the youth card while Moeen Ali has been fantastic in an English test side with bat and ball. Moeen’s weakness as a bowler however was horribly exposed the last time England played down under. England will need to find a spinner who can tie up an end and let the quicks rotate at the other so they’re not over bowled. Swann was able to do it in 2010/11 which was so crucial. My guess is Leach is the best option.
11, Stuart Broad
Age in series: 35 // 485 wickets at 28.5
One of England’s greats and you feel England will need some experience in the bowling unit. Will be his last tour and the only player to have won it down under in the team. Anderson at 39 will surely be too old but perhaps England will bring in their all time leading wicket taker for the day night match in Perth where it’ll swing. Tough to leave Woakes out but again he struggled on the last tour down under when it’s not swinging.