England have named the strongest available squad for their attempt to regain the Ashes this winter, with wicketkeeper and vice-captain Jos Buttler joining Joe Root in committing to the tour. As anticipated, there was no place for Ben Stokes, as he continues his indefinite break from the game, while Sam Curran was not considered for the 17-man party after being diagnosed with a back stress fracture at the IPL.
The ECB only gave "conditional approval" for the tour on Friday after several months of wrangling over the pandemic-related restrictions that England players, staff and family members would face.
James Anderson will return to Australia for a fifth Ashes tour at the age of 39, while Stuart Broad is set to be fit after a calf injury ruled him out after the first Test against India in August. Ollie Robinson was selected for his first senior tour of Australia after an impressive debut summer, with Chris Woakes, Craig Overton and Mark Wood making up the pace battery, and Jack Leach and Dom Bess included as spin options.
The batting features only three men with experience of Test cricket in Australia - Root, Jonny Bairstow and Dawid Malan - with Zak Crawley included as back-up to openers Rory Burns and Haseeb Hameed, and Dan Lawrence providing competition for Ollie Pope in the middle order. There was no room for Dom Sibley, despite his involvement in Warwickshire's Championship and Bob Willis Trophy double after being dropped two Tests into the India series.
Chris Silverwood, England's head coach and chief selector, said he was "delighted that all of our available players have committed to the tour". Buttler, in particular, was understood to have been wavering due to the time he will spend away from home for the T20 World Cup and Ashes, as well as Australia's tough approach to Covid-19 protocols.
England's long-range planning for Australia has already taken several knocks, Stokes' absence for mental wellbeing reasons and to continue rehabilitation on a finger injury foremost among them. Jofra Archer was ruled out for the rest of the year by a chronic elbow problem, Olly Stone is also working his way back from a back stress injury and Moeen Ali announced his retirement from Test cricket last month.
"A tour of Australia is the pinnacle as an England Test cricketer," Silverwood said. "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.
"Both teams are in similar positions in the Test world rankings. For that reason, it should be a compelling series. We can enjoy the build-up to the tour, get out there, and prepare well ahead of the first Test in Brisbane.
"Having the Lions with the Ashes squad will be integral to our build-up. The extended group of players will be with us before the first Test. We will play two competitive warm-up games amongst both squads to give us the match practice we need as part of our build-up. It's an excellent opportunity to connect the Lions into the England environment and gain a good understanding of what is required to play at the highest level."
Members of the Ashes squad who are not involved in the T20 World Cup are set travel to a resort on Queensland's Gold Coast next month, where they are expected to be able to train during their quarantine period. They will then be joined by Buttler, Bairstow, Malan, Woakes and Wood after the conclusion of England's involvement in the UAE, ahead of the first Test in Brisbane starting on December 8.
Family members wishing to join the tour nearer to Christmas are likely to undergo their quarantine in the more relaxed surroundings of a Victoria country club. With Australia pushing towards the 80% vaccination mark, it is anticipated that the tourists will then be able to experience a greater degree of freedom than has been common in the era of biosecure environments.
After Brisbane, the teams will move on to a day-night Test in Adelaide and then the traditional Boxing Day clash at the MCG. The New Year's Test in Sydney will begin on January, although doubts remain over the fifth Test, currently scheduled for Perth, due to Western Australia's insistence on a 14-day quarantine for those coming from other states.
An England Lions party will also travel to Australia, giving the selectors further options, with a squad to be announced in due course. The Lions are due to play two fixtures against the Ashes group as part of England's preparations, before taking on Australia A in a four-day match that begins the day after the Brisbane Test.
England men's Ashes squad: Joe Root (capt), James Anderson, Jonathan Bairstow, Dom Bess, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Zak Crawley, Haseeb Hameed, Dan Lawrence, Jack Leach, Dawid Malan, Craig Overton, Ollie Pope, Ollie Robinson, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood
Alan Gardner is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick