The Ashes 2013-14 October 23, 2013

England fly out for history quest

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England fly out to Australia on Wednesday evening to begin their attempt at securing a fourth straight Ashes series victory, something they haven't achieved since the 19th century.

A squad of 17 - which won't be far off being doubled when the backroom staff are taken into account - is led by Alastair Cook and will depart for Perth where they will begin preparations for the Test series that starts on November 21 at the Gabba.

Tim Bresnan, who was diagnosed with a stress fracture of the back after the Durham Test where England clinched the series, will also leave with the squad but is not an official member yet and his recovery will be monitored during the early weeks of the tour. There are three uncapped players in the party - Gary Ballance, Ben Stokes and Boyd Rankin - while Michael Carberry has just a single Test to his name.

Ballance, the Yorkshire left hander, and Durham allrounder Stokes are two of the players vying for the troublesome No. 6 spot, alongside Jonny Bairstow who was in possession of the position until The Oval Test, and deciding who fills that role will be one of the key decisions to reach during the lead-in period before Brisbane.

The first warm-up match, against a Western Australia XI, begins on October 31 after a period of acclimatisation. England's proficient use of the tour matches on the 2010-11 tour, where they won two and dominated a draw in the other, was highlighted as a key factor in their success on that trip even though they began slowly in Brisbane, being bowled out for 260 on the opening day.

England's recent record in opening Tests away from home is poor: they have not won the first encounter since beating South Africa, at Port Elizabeth, in 2004.

There are concerns this time about the strength of the opposition England will encounter in the early weeks of the tour. The matches against Western Australia, Australia A and New South Wales all clash with rounds of the Sheffield Shield. The sides fielded by WA and NSW are likely to be particularly under strength and it has been suggested that reinforcements will be called in. Ultimately for England, though, the importance will be getting miles in the bowlers' legs and hours at the crease for the batsmen.

Three years ago, Andy Flower and Andrew Strauss fielded the first Test starting XI in the first two warm-up matches before resting the four frontline bowlers - James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Steven Finn and Graeme Swann - for the match against Australia A in Hobart.

Anderson, Broad and Swann are, fitness permitting, certainties again but Finn will have to fight to regain the place he lost after the opening Test at Trent Bridge in July. On that occasion his berth went to Bresnan, who provided greater control and added depth to lower order. This time, unless Bresnan's recovery is unexpectedly rapid, his competition will come from Rankin, who impressed during the one-day series against Australia last month, and the recalled Chris Tremlett who had a major impact on the 2010-11 series when he was brought in for the Perth Test onwards.

Tremlett, who played his previous Test against Pakistan in January 2012, was expected to start on his homeground at The Oval in August but, at the last minute, was overlooked as England changed the balance of their side by handing debuts to Chris Woakes and Simon Kerrigan.

The experiment was not a success and neither have made this tour: Woakes was solid, but has been leapfrogged by Stokes, and Kerrigan suffered a nightmare debut as he was mauled by Shane Watson. Despite Stokes' presence in the squad, the odds favour England returning to their preferred balance of six batsmen, the wicketkeeper, three fast bowlers and Swann.

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • cricket_ahan on October 28, 2013, 3:14 GMT

    I'm hoping for a George Bailey debut in Brisbane. For me, he could be Australia's wild card for this upcoming tour. Not only should he be sky-high on confidence from his recent runs in India (and the tour's not over yet), but the players around him appear to be responding well to his captaincy, making him an ideal candidate to support Clarke with leadership duties.IMO Phil Hughes or Usman Khawaja need to go to make room for him.

  • Valavan on October 25, 2013, 9:58 GMT

    @cptmeanster, keep on speaking about ODIs when we speak about tests. BTW is your purpose to come and whine here. Think about your team, who gonna play 13 away tests, is your batters ready for PACE strips, ready to face PHIL, STEYN, ANDY, BROADY, STARC, BOULT, HARRIS, WAGNER in pacy wickets. ODI is a different ball game.

  • dummy4fb on October 24, 2013, 16:01 GMT

    @PrasPunter: Well said. Test cricket is so much more nuanced and interesting. I enjoy one-day cricket despite my team's' hopelessness in the format, but the 5-day games have so much more twists and turns to saviour, and the game is a far more thorough examination of a cricketer's rounded ability.

  • landl47 on October 24, 2013, 12:52 GMT

    @Englishfan: yes, that's the side I'd go for, too: Cook, Root, Trott, Pietersen, Bell, Ballance, Prior, Broad, Swann, Anderson, Rankin. I thought Rankin bowled very well in the ODIs and had Clarke in all kinds of trouble, but since in short-format cricket the 3rd change bits-and-pieces bowler has to bowl as much as the best bowler (just one reason why short-format cricket can never be as good as the real thing) Clarke didn't have to face him for very long. He looks made for Australia, though- 88mph, 6' 7", high action, lots of lift and an awkward length. Finn might have to take a back seat, but he's 5 years younger and his time will come.

    Ballance is a really bright prospect and batting #6 on this tour would be ideal for him. I think Bairstow's future is as a WK/batsman when Prior retires (and even then he'll have lots of competition from Buttler and Foakes).

    Agree re: Swann. The only good thing is it looks like spin won't be a big factor on this tour, but he needs to stay fit.

  • CodandChips on October 24, 2013, 8:11 GMT

    Should be a close series- 2-1 England. I am a big Steven Finn fan but believe England will go with Rankin after the ODI series. I'm glad Ballance is going he he should be number 6 for the series and a long-term Pietersen replacement. Disappointed no Taylor or Woakes in squad, but Stokes looks like he will be better in the future, so his inclusion is not upsetting. Worried about backup for Swan though, his fitness is vital for us.

  • latecut_04 on October 24, 2013, 4:58 GMT

    'BOWLERS WIN MATCHES' and on Aus tracks Australia have match winning bowlers.The likes of Bird,Cummins,Starc,Pattinson and even Jhonson would be a handful.Spin is a woory but Aus wil ldefinitely go for bouncy tracks to favor their quicks.As for batting wont the likes of Clarke,Haddin and even Watson play much better than they did in June.They may not score 200s except Clarke but they should be able to put up fighting totals on board.Also dont forget 2 of the matches were really close last time and although the end analysis was 'End won despite their batting not firing on all cylinders' is there any guarantee Eng will amass large totals come Dec-Jan.Even more amusing is the pessimism of Aussie supporters.i think we are in for a new year surprise and this is from India.

  • android_user on October 24, 2013, 2:23 GMT

    surely England bowlers get injuries, if u c when they tour abroad get injuries especially broad

  • Hammond on October 24, 2013, 1:43 GMT

    I am one Aussie that will be cheering on the three lions. Unlike 2006 there aren't any serious injury worries, so really we should expect a repeat of 2010/11, and given that the Aussie test squad is even weaker than the 2010 side, maybe we can expect even more carnage!

  • JG2704 on October 23, 2013, 21:04 GMT

    @Cpt.Meanster on (October 23, 2013, 17:43 GMT) To be honest it's hard to link SF form with test form and vice versa even if the best in world pace battery might be a bit far fetched - although he could be talking about the battery they put in the bowling machine? Also most of the bowlers from both sides are coming away from these ODIs with worse figures than usual. Add to that the fact that the likelihood is that only one of the frontline bowlers stands a realistic chance of being involved and Eng batsmen by and large aren't as positive either. However Aus are level with India in India and their batsmen have brought a positive mindset against bowlers who they have had probs with before. If they can bring that attitude with a little discipline they could be very hard to beat at home.

    @DRS_Flawed_NeedsImprovement on (October 23, 2013, 16:35 GMT) re "Enough said." - Too much said on something which is not related to the thread