ECB Announces England Touring Squad for 2021-22 Ashes Series

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The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has confirmed their intentions to travel down under for the 2021-22 Ashes series by naming England’s strongest available touring squad, including captain Joe Root. Ongoing concerns regarding player safety and protocols meant the tour was in jeopardy. However, the ECB published a statement confirming it will go ahead “subject to conditions” that Cricket Australia must meet in the coming weeks.

The five-Test series is scheduled to commence from 8th December with the fifth Test set to conclude on 18th January. The ECB confirmed that “excellent progress” has been made to ensure England’s players – and their families – can make the trip to the Ashes tour.

Alongside Joe Root as England’s touring captain, wicketkeeper Jos Buttler will assume the role of vice-captain for the 2021-22 Ashes series. All 17 players included in the squad have already been capped at Test level, but the squad is undeniably missing a raft of proven and dangerous campaigners that could add further weaponry to the England batting and bowling line-up.

Major gaps exist in England’s batting and bowling attack

The biggest absentee within England’s touring party is all-rounder Ben Stokes. The all-conquering batter and fast bowler is still overcoming surgery on his index finger, but Stokes is also out of contention regardless having taken the decision to take an indefinite hiatus from professional cricket this summer to focus on his mental health. Stokes missed the five-Test series against India and was replaced by Somerset bowler Craig Overton, who did enough against Virat Kohli’s side to earn selection for the 2021-22 Ashes squad.

There is a strong expectation that Australia will retain the Ashes comfortably in their own back yard. England are in danger of falling into the same trap of taking a one-paced bowling attack down under, with injuries to Jofra Archer and Olly Stone leaving the ‘old guard’ of James Anderson and Stuart Broad to toil in the Australian summer. It’s therefore no surprise to see Australia as clear outright favourites in the latest Ashes cricket odds.

England will also be without left-arm bowler Sam Curran through injury, while Moeen Ali’s spin bowling and middle-order batting will also be missed with the 34-year-old retiring from Test cricket. There are fitness concerns still lingering around frontline bowler Stuart Broad, who is still battling back from a torn calf muscle. However, the ECB said in its statement that Broad is “making excellent progress” and is on course to make his fourth tour down under for the Ashes.

Aside from an uncertain and unfit bowling attack, England are still by no means set with their batting order. Rory Burns, Hasseb Hameed and Zak Crawley have all had opportunities to cement positions as opening batters but have struggled to take the initiative. Hameed demonstrated some promise in this summer’s Test series with India, scoring two half-centuries at Headingley and The Oval respectively. Rory Burns also managed two half-centuries against India but was also out twice for a duck during the series. Meanwhile, Zak Crawley only took part in the first Test against India.

With England naming their Ashes squad, it is only a matter of time before Australia reveal their hand. Captain Tim Paine looks set to recover from invasive neck surgery in time for the opening Test at The Gabba. Their batting line-up looks almost nailed on, with David Warner, Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne all certain to feature. Smith, who turned 32 earlier this year, has played just twice in 2021 but amassed 303 runs during those appearances. The likes of Travis Head, Joe Burns and Will Pucovski will be looking to round up the top order, with the likes of Season Abbott and Cameron Green pushing hard to be the side’s headline all-rounder.

Vice-captain Pat Cummins is up there with the now-retired South African Dale Steyn as one of the world’s fastest and most destructive bowlers. His bounce and pace on hard Australian pitches will certainly pose plenty of problems for England. England’s summer opponents India struggled down under recently, with Kohli’s troops bowled out for a staggering 36 – their worst ever score in Test match cricket. The remainder of the pace bowling attack will probably include seasoned campaigners Josh Hazlewood, James Pattinson and Mitchell Starc. Nathan Lyon remains the front-line spin bowler for the Aussies.

Ex-Australia skipper Alan Border predicts a heavy 4-0 defeat for England in the upcoming Ashes. England have only won one Ashes series down under since 1987 and with a weakened batting and bowling line-up, their backs are most definitely against the wall before a ball has even been bowled.

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