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The Ashes: England make changes with Australia in mind

3 minute read

The next Ashes series between Australia and England is still some way off, but the changes made by the Three Lions for the beginning of their home Test summer suggest that they are already thinking well ahead.

Picture: bet365

The old rivals next meet on Australian soil in late 2025 and early 2026, but, with nearly 18 months to go until the action gets underway, it is still not too early to cast an eye forward and take a glance at what the England line-up might look like.

Despite their much-vaunted Bazball approach, England are back in third place in the official ICC Test rankings, with current Test world champions Australia topping the list.

Add in the fact that the tourists have been beaten 5-0, 4-0 and 4-0 on their last three visits to Australia and it is clear that they have plenty of work to do to try and find the answers to how to try and success Down Under.

The Baggy Greens are currently 1.61 to win the next Ashes series, with England 3.60 and the draw 6.00.

England Test squad for first two Tests v West Indies: Ben Stokes (c), James Anderson (first Test only), Gus Atkinson, Shoaib Bashir, Harry Brook, Zak Crawley, Ben Duckett, Dan Lawrence, Dillon Pennington, Ollie Pope, Matthew Potts, Joe Root, Jamie Smith, Chris Woakes.

 Fast bowling greats will be gone 

Stuart Broad and James Anderson are two of the four highest wicket-takers amongst England bowlers in Ashes cricket, with the already-retired Broad top of the pile on 153.

Anderson will end his astonishing career in the upcoming first Test match against West Indies before stepping aside and England have drafted in a couple of new faces as potential replacements.

Surrey's Gus Atkinson possesses genuine pace, but has yet to be tried in the Test arena and he may be a replacement for one of Mark Wood and Jofra Archer, both of whose Test futures must be in question.

Along with Atkinson, Dillon Pennington of Nottinghamshire has also been handed a call for the opening two Tests against the Windies, having caught the selectors' eyes since moving to Trent Bridge from Worcestershire.

Josh Tongue has followed the same path and made his Test bow during the English summer of 2023, taking five wickets in an innings on his debut against Ireland.

He is currently sidelined by injury, but his ability to extract bounce from even the flattest surface will surely see him in contention when he recovers fully, along with Notts team-mate Olly Stone.

Also named in the squad for the first two Test against the men from the Caribbean are a fit-gain Chris Woakes and Durham's Matthew Potts, while Sussex's Ollie Robinson remains around the set-up despite his struggles to prove that he can cope with the exertions of Test cricket.

 Spin options suddenly plentiful 

England have certainly not produced too many quality spinners in recent times, but they currently have two or three viable options for the upcoming action and beyond.

Left-armer Jack Leach was the definite first choice until the tour of India, when injury cut his involvement short, leaving his Somerset team-mate Shoaib Bashir and Notts' Tom Hartley to step in and impress.

Off-spinner, Bashir, who has had to join Worcs on loan to play regularly in recent weeks, took 17 wickets in three matches, while left-armer Hartley - also a useful lower-order batter - took 22 wicket and played in all five games in his debut series.

Add in the youthful leg-spinner Rehan Ahmed of Leicestershire and England have choices to make, with how much county cricket each candidate manages to play possibly being a decisive factor.

 Batting line-up looks more settled 

With changes a certainty in the bowling department, England's batting line-up appears to be a much more stable unit, especially with former captain Joe Root showing no signs of calling time on his Test career just yet.

Openers Zak Crawley and Ben Duckett have formed a good partnership at the top of the order, especially as both play in the attacking manner than both captain Ben Stokes and coach Brendon McCullum prefer, while Ollie Pope seems settled at number three.

Harry Brook is clearly a man for the now and the future alongside his Yorkshire colleague Root, but a third Tyke, Jonny Bairstow, appears to have seen his red-ball career ended at exactly the 100-cap mark.

He has been omitted from the squad to face the Windies, with Dan Lawrence preferred, while the jettisoning of Bairstow also set up an intriguing selection in the wicketkeeping department.

Ben Foakes, widely though of as the best keeper in world cricket, has been omitted in favour of the player who he holds the gloves ahead of at Surrey, Jamie Smith.

Smith averages 56.41 with the bat in the County Championship so far this summer and has been picked out as the potential next best thing, however, he could yet come under pressure from the likes of Somerset's James Rew and Notts' Joe Clarke.

Clarke is ahead of Smith in the runscoring charts and, while he used to be seen as a specialist batter, he now keeps wicket for his county and has impressed for several franchises in the Big Bash League.

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