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Selecting an Ashes XI to tour Australia

by Justin Rourke

We are 12 months away from the next instalment of the Ashes! I can’t wait, and looking at Twitter there are a few people turning their attentions to this series.

Bumble let us have his Ashes XI recently –  Zak Crawley, Jonny Bairstow, Dan Lawrence, Joe Root*, Ben Stokes, Ollie Pope, Jos Buttler +, Chris Woakes , Adil Rashid, Stuart Broad , James Anderson and he claims that Shane Warne would pick the same top 3!

Twitter can be an unkind place and many of us were unkind to Bumble for his selection. However in a year where we have lost many things, the right to an opinion is not one. I do disagree with Bumble, but not where you might expect, I actually like his top six but seven to eleven is not going work for me in Australia.  

I’m padded up and my helmet is on as I know this won’t be universally popular, but I will attempt to justify my logic. I will also try and do so without being negative, rude or disparaging about any of the players I have not selected.

The challenge:

The last two series in Australia (since Strauss 3-1 victory) have been lost 5-0 and 4-0.

Australia have all of the side that drew 2-2 in England available plus two potential new starts in Pucovski and Green.

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Our best batsman has no century from 17 attempts in Australia, and of the likely candidates to play only Stokes has a century from the 13/14 series. Bairstow and Malan each have a century from the 17/18 series but it is debatable if either will be part of the squad.

My solution:

A clear and consistent plan is vital, I am sure that is easier said than done when the pressure is on. When selecting the side there should be a structure that players fit into. The DNA of my XI is 6 batsman, my best wicket keeper, my best spinner and 3 seam bowlers.

The objective is to score big first innings runs, and to pick bowlers who can take wickets throughout the 90 overs.

When selecting the 6 best batsmen the key measure is the ability to play in all conditions and all match situations (no one gets to say ‘its just the way I play’). It is important to be able to bat time when appropriate, and to be able to accelerate when the situation calls for it.

The three seam bowlers must be able to bowl with a new and an old ball. The new ball will be relevant for approximately 20 overs, so you must be able to bowl with an old ball for 70 overs and take wickets, not just bowl economically.


  1. Z Crawley
  2. J Bairstow
  3. D Lawrence
  4. J Root *
  5. B Stokes
  6. O Pope
  7. B Foakes +
  8. S Broad
  9. M Wood
  10. J Archer
  11. J Leach

Where I find myself agreeing with Bumble is the top 6, they each have a range of stroke that allows them to play off the back and the front foot and a technique that allows them to bat for a long time.

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1 to 3 will be perceived as the risk and I can understand that. Crawley I think will make most people’s starting XI, he immediately looked at home in Test cricket, he learnt quickly to play with a less closed bat face. He can play the short ball, and can bat for long periods of time. Dan Lawrence will make a few people’s team, he has ability and scored heavily in Australia for the Lions last year. Like Crawley he has no mental scarring and has the talent to make the number 3 spot his own; it is relatively new to him but it was to Marnus last year.  Jonny’s selection will stir plenty of emotions, he has ability and the technical issues can be fixed. He is a fighter and I want that in my team for a tough tour.

The middle order needs little explanation, the captain is a class act who has earned the right to choose to bat at 4 and Stokes similarly at 5. They both have a point to prove in Australia for different reasons, Root will wants 100’s in Australia and Stokes will want to make up for missing the last series. He is also a complete bonus that he his a top 5 batter who is also a serious bowler.

Pope comes in at 6 where his counter attacking is ideally suited. He has a great tempo to his batting and that is well suited to the 5/6 batting slot much like Root (earlier in his career) and Ian Bell, the two players he most resembles.

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Foakes is a must pick, as a batsman his record is excellent and he has shown his temperament is suited to the Test stage. Trevor Bayliss was close to picking him as a batsman on the last Ashes tour which is a testament to his ability. He is not as destructive as some of his rivals, but he is a better all round player. Most importantly he is the most likely keeper to take a chance when it’s offered which is imperative as chances on flat pitches against that batting line up when bowling with a kookaburra are rare.

The seam bowling attack is picked for variation and the ability to take wickets with the new and old ball. Broad and Jof bowled superbly with the new ball in the last Ashes, and Broad is (like Bairstow) exactly the kind of fighter I want leading my attack.  Both get bounce and movement and can come back with variations with an older ball. Wood is genuinely fast, that does not do justice to his skill but pace of that nature is rare. Evidence shows that will make things happen regardless of the pitch or the ball. These are bowlers who are not dependent on the new ball swinging but can make an old ball reverse.

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Spin – Jack has shown he has tremendous character and is not overawed by the stage. The direction he turns the ball is not important but the ability to bowl long spells is important. The spinner needs to be able to offer control and attack at the same time, this allows the seam bowlers to be rotated in short spells. Lyon is evidence that you do not need a mystery ball or wrist spin. Leach is the most compete spinner we have right now and that allayed to his temperament make him the perfect foil for the seam attack.

So there we have it, I know you won’t all agree but its just a bit of fun! I don’t mind who we pick if we win the Ashes back!

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