England have named a 17-man squad for this winter’s bid to regain the Ashes with head coach Chris Silverwood insisting there is “genuine excitement and belief that we can do something special” in Australia.
As expected, there is no Ben Stokes in the touring party as he continues his indefinite break from cricket to focus on his mental wellbeing and rehabilitation from surgery on his injured left index finger, while Jofra Archer is a long-term absentee with an elbow problem.
Sam Curran is also ruled out of the 11-week trip that starts in early November due to the diagnosis of a stress fracture to his lower back, the same injury that sees Olly Stone also absent and leaves Mark Wood as the sole outright pace bowler at captain Joe Root’s disposal.
But otherwise there are no high profile absentees due to the demands of playing overseas during the ongoing pandemic, with Silverwood – the sole selector these days – offering cautious optimism regarding his side’s chances in the five-Test series.
Silverwood said: “A tour of Australia is the pinnacle as an England Test cricketer. I am delighted that all of our available players have committed to the tour. We are looking forward to touring and enjoying the experience of this historic series.
“This is why we play and coach to be involved in iconic series like this. More than half of our squad haven’t featured in an Ashes tour before, which means we will be fresh and looking to embrace the cricket and the excitement of touring one of the best places in the world.
“I believe we have selected a well-balanced squad with options in all areas and a blend of youth and experience. There is real competition for places and a genuine desire to work hard and compete, aiming to create some history.
“We are under no illusions about how difficult the task is going to be. Australia have been strong at home in the past, and there is an expectation on them to win this series. However, from our point of view, there is genuine excitement and belief that we can do something special.”
There are no huge surprises but Silverwood confirmed there will be two intra-squad warm-up matches before the first Test in Brisbane on 8 December involving a shadow Lions squad that will be named during the week.
This pool of players is set to include the likes of Saqib Mahmood and Matt Parkinson – and possibly Dom Sibley, after the opener was dropped during the India series – and will present fringe players the chance to stake their claim for the main squad.
In the official release there was confirmation that some outstanding details over the tour remain unresolved. But after conditional approval was granted by the England and Wales Cricket Board on Friday, these are expected to be ironed out in the coming days.
Stuart Broad is the one injury doubt after missing the back end of the summer with a torn calf muscle but is set to resume bowling at Loughborough next week, while Dom Bess has been named as the back-up spinner to Jack Leach ahead of Lancashire’s Parkinson.
Dan Lawrence and Zak Crawley appear to be the reserve batsmen, while Jonny Bairstow is the only other recognised wicketkeeper in the squad alongside Jos Buttler. The Yorkshireman will still be vying for a spot in the middle order along with Ollie Pope.