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Friday, 18 January, 2019

Depleted tourists need ruthless runscoring from skipper Root

Stuart Broad (left) and James Anderson are crucial to England's chances
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Joe Root (captain)
The skipper has experienced the highs and lows of Ashes cricket, being dropped for the final Test of the 2013-14 series in Australia only six months after scoring 180 at Lord’s.

He topped England’s runscoring charts in 2015, making a crucial century in the first Test in Cardiff, and is the prime target for the Aussie quick bowlers.

Root is brilliant at keeping the scoreboard ticking early in his innings but England need him to be more ruthless – he converts just 29 per cent of his fifties into centuries, a rate which compares poorly with David Warner (45 per cent) and Steve Smith (49 per cent).

Moeen Ali
Moeen enjoyed a magnificent all-round summer in England, scoring 361 runs and claiming 30 wickets in seven Tests.

Moeen was the third-highest runscorer for England in the 2015 Ashes, despite batting at number eight, and a strike-rate of 71 runs per 100 balls showed his counter-attacking quality.

The Aussies will target him with the short ball, and attack his off-spin bowling early in the series, but the Worcestershire man has the talent and character to thrive.

James Anderson
England’s most prolific Test wicket-taker must make the most of what little movement the Kookaburra ball offers early in the innings.

Anderson’s duel with the free-scoring Warner will be a key factor in the series and the 35-year-old looked as sharp as ever during the summer, taking 39 wickets in seven Tests against South Africa and the West Indies.

The Burnley Express poses a consistent threat in England but his experience, discipline and craft enable him to cause problems in less helpful conditions, as he proved against Pakistan in the UAE in 2015 and on the 2010-11 Ashes tour.

Jonny Bairstow
With a shaky top order above him and injury-hit bowlers below him, Bairstow is one of England’s bankers and the absence of Ben Stokes increases his value to the side.

He has worked hard on his wicketkeeping – and the true, bounce of pitches in Australia makes it a good place to keep – and since his breakthrough tour of South Africa in 2015-16 he has scored three centuries and 12 fifties in just 43 innings.

Jake Ball
England’s injury problems shunted Nottinghamshire’s Ball up the pecking order for a place in the 11 for Brisbane and, despite twisting an ankle in a warm-up game, he could get the nod at the Gabba.

He has shown undoubted potential in one-day cricket for England but three Test matches produced only two wickets, costing 114 runs apiece, and he may well be vulnerable when the ball isn’t darting around.

Gary Ballance
After a brilliant start to his Test career, the Yorkshire captain has struggled to nail down a place in the middle-order.

He was dropped after the second Ashes Test of 2015 and has failed to convince in his subsequent appearances, with scores of eight, 17, one, nine, nine, five, 20, 34, 27 and four in his last ten innings.

Stuart Broad
Broad’s refusal to walk after a juicy edge to slip in the 2013 Ashes Test at Trent Bridge established him as the man the Aussies love to hate.

That role seems to inspire the spiky fast bowler, who was the leading wicket-taker in the 2015 series and England’s most successful bowler in 2013-14.

Broad has taken 64 wickets at an average of 25 in his last three Ashes series and his partnership with Anderson is even more crucial given the lack of experience in reserve.

Alastair Cook
Cook came into the 2010-11 Ashes series under pressure – he was a whopping 13-2 to top-score for England in the series – but he ended the tour with 766 runs and a 3-1 series win.

The former captain’s subsequent record against Australia is modest, averaging just under 30 without a century in 29 innings, but blunting the new-ball threat is his first responsibility in this series.

Cook looked in good nick during his first summer back in the ranks, eventually cashing in with 243 against the Windies at Edgbaston, but facing the Aussies on their own patch is never easy for an opener.

Mason Crane
The Hampshire leg-spinner was preferred to Jack Leach of Somerset largely due to his success in Sydney grade cricket last winter.

His wicket-taking exploits led to a shock call-up to represent New South Wales, becoming their first overseas player since Imran Khan, and England’s management seem confident the uncapped 20-year-old will handle the Ashes pressure.

Tom Curran
The elder brother of Surrey tyro Sam, 22-year-old Tom replaced injured paceman Steven Finn.

Curran’s temperament has held up in big county games and a handful of limited-overs appearances for England, and he looked appreciably quicker in red-ball cricket this year.

Ben Foakes
Hailed by Alec Stewart – his coach at Surrey – as the best wicketkeeper in the world, Foakes is a solid understudy.

His glovework, whether to the quick bowlers or spinners, is excellent and he averaged 42.5 in first-class cricket this year, also scoring six fifties in eight One-Day Cup innings.

George Garton
The Sussex left-armer, a veteran of nine first-class games, was added to the squad because, in the words of coach Trevor Bayliss “he’s fit”. Only a severe injury crisis would see the 20-year-old given a debut.

Dawid Malan
The Middlesex left-hander wowed the England set-up with an innings of 78 on his T20 debut against South Africa in June but he failed to grab his opportunity in the Test side.

Malan averages 23.6 after five Tests and the fact that he is likely to bat at number five at the Gabba says more about a lack of middle-order options than it does about his efforts.

Craig Overton
A haul of 46 Championship wickets at an average of 22 earned Overton, whose twin brother Jamie also plays for Somerset, a place on the tour.

Jake Ball’s recovery from an ankle injury means Overton is likely to miss out at the Gabba but England expect the 6ft 5in paceman to extract some awkward bounce from the hard Australian pitches.

Mark Stoneman
A reliable runscorer in testing conditions at Durham, the opener earned a Test call-up towards the end of a prolific first season with Surrey.

Stoneman’s five innings against the West Indies produced only one fifty but he has cashed in against some weak bowling attacks in the Ashes warm-up games.

Facing Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood will be a far tougher challenge but, at 30, the left-hander knows his game and can find the right balance between attack and defence.

James Vince
Vince played some elegant cameos in his first spell as a Test cricketer but was surprised to be recalled after a modest season for Hampshire.

Picking him at number three is a gamble but England are running out of options given that Root prefers to bat at four.

Vince’s style is often likened to that of Michael Vaughan, who scored 633 Test runs on the 2002-03 tour of Australia, but it would be a surprise if he got anywhere near that tally.

Chris Woakes
The Warwickshire man was a key figure in England’s Test team before injury sidelined him for much of the summer.

Woakes has shaped up well in the warm-up games and is probably England’s quickest bowler when fully fit. He also has a role to play with the bat – he came in at number six on his debut against the Aussies and made 61 not out in his last innings against the West Indies.

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Broad’s refusal to walk after a juicy edge to slip in the 2013 Ashes Test at Trent Bridge established him as the man the Aussies love to hate.
E.W. Terms
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