England prepare to name strong Ashes squad
England will name their Ashes squad on Sunday, with captain Joe Root heading up a group that is as close to full strength as possible in the ongoing absence of Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer.
Fears that the marquee series would be downgraded to something of a sideshow, with a host of first-choice players pondering withdrawal from the trip to Australia due to COVID-related restrictions, have abated and there are unlikely to be any notable opt-outs.
That means the likelihood of Root being joined by vice-captain Jos Buttler, Chris Woakes, Jonny Bairstow, Dawid Malan and Mark Wood, who were among those whose participation was at one stage far from certain but who will travelling after a month away at the T20 World Cup in the UAE.
With star allrounder Stokes still focusing on his mental health and recovery from a second finger operation and strike bowler Archer sidelined with a long-standing elbow issue, head coach Chris Silverwood is thought to have settled on a familiar-looking squad of around 18.
Those hoping for eye-catching selections may be disappointed, with the likes of big-hitting allrounder Liam Livingstone and his legspinning Lancashire colleague Matt Parkinson set to be named instead in the Lions squad that will provide back-up early in the tour.
Instead, England will continue to rely on the majority of players that have carried them through a difficult year of Test cricket, including defeats in six of their last nine matches.
With Dom Sibley axed from the new round of central contracts, Silverwood is likely to stick with Rory Burns, Haseeb Hameed and Zak Crawley as top-order options with Malan, Root and Ollie Pope alongside wicketkeeper-batters Bairstow and Buttler in the middle order.
Fellow gloveman Ben Foakes is expected to miss out following his injury-hit season and James Bracey has drifted down the pecking order following a tough series against New Zealand.
Moeen Ali's retirement leaves the way clear for Jack Leach and Dom Bess to take up two spinning places, though Parkinson and youngster Jack Carson may end up with the Lions too.
Veteran seamers James Anderson and Stuart Broad should head up the seam ranks for what may well be their Ashes swansong, with support from the likes of Woakes, Wood and Ollie Robinson.
All-rounder Sam Curran has been forced to pull out of the Indian Premier League and the T20 World Cup with a lower back injury and will need to be assessed.
Craig Overton and Saqib Mahmood were also in the Test squad at the end of the summer but could be fighting for one spot, with the latter hoping to become the only uncapped player to make the cut.
© PAA 2021
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