Assessing England's Ashes Squad: The Strengths And Weaknesses Of Joe Root's Side

How are England's players going to fare as they attempt to win back the Ashes?
17:00, 12 Oct 2021

So we know the 17-man squad that will go Down Under to try to win the Ashes for England this winter, but with Joe Root’s side 5/1 outsiders to win the Ashes with Betfred, it will be an uphill task for England to win in Australia for the first time in a decade.

We’ve graded every category to assess whether this England squad can really do the unthinkable.

The Openers

Rory Burns

Haseeb Hameed

Zak Crawley

England are desperate for a solid pairing who can allow Joe Root to turn the screw when he comes in, rather than perform a perpetual rescue mission. It looks as if Burns and Hameed will be the opening duo for the First Test at The Gabba and the Surrey left-hander could flourish Down Under. Burns averaged 39 against Australia in his only previous series and, after two fifties and two ducks against India this year, will be desperate to provide some consistency. 

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At 24 years old, Hameed is still learning on the job but the signs are promising. A 135-run stand with Burns versus India, along with two half-centuries, should give him the nod for the start of the series. However, Zak Crawley will be ready to slot in at three, or potentially take Hameed’s spot should the Nottinghamshire man fail to impress. Crawley’s 267 against Pakistan in 2020 showed him at his very best, but he has lost confidence and form since then. He maintains the belief of the selectors, and Shane Warne has tipped him for success, but if trusted at three he must provide a steady hand. Inconsistency is likely to haunt the openers once more.

Rating: 4/10

The Only Hope?

Joe Root 

We’ve had to put him in a category of his own. Joe Root is simply incomparable to any other player in this side and if England do somehow pull off a win in Australia, it will surely be mainly down to him. With his 109 Tests, 9,278 runs and an average of 50.15 for his country, there really aren’t too many more superlatives we can use for Root.

Rating: 10/10

Middle Order

Dan Lawrence 

Dawid Malan

Ollie Pope

If the openers can be regarded as inconsistent, then the middle order is a potential horror show. Dawid Malan’s return to Test cricket this summer was a success as he batted at three and his only century so far came in Australia, but his average is still just 28. Ollie Pope clearly has talent having scored 135 against South Africa in 2019 and a brave 81 versus India this summer, and his technique is arguably the most sound of the middle order. At 23, he has time to improve and this tour of Australia is likely to be key in his development - but he could be England’s surprise package. 

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Dan Lawrence is another one who could thrive in Australia as he did for the Lions in 2020, but it seems unlikely at this stage that he will be given much game time. This middle order is unlikely to win games on this tour. 

Rating: 3/10

Wicket Keepers

Jos Buttler

Jonny Bairstow

Vice-captain Jos Buttler is nailed on to take the gloves for this tour and will hope to add some big runs with the bat, but Jonny Bairstow’s standing in this team is intriguing. Barring injury he will not feature in the team as a wicketkeeper batting at number seven, which would be his ideal preference, so instead he could be considered in the middle order.

That game time is likely to depend on the performances of Pope, Lawrence and Malan, and if any of those struggle he could be called up to bat - potentially at five. His experience could prove key in the Australian heat, but England have two more than capable wicket-keepers who should contribute with the bat Down Under.

Rating: 7/10

Bowlers

Jack Leach

Dom Bess

Mark Wood

Craig Overton

Stuart Broad

Jimmy Anderson

Chris Woakes

Ollie Robinson

Jimmy Anderson is embarking on his ninth Ashes series with three wins to his name, and he is England’s best ever bowler. He’s taken 632 Test wickets, the third highest of all time, and he could well close in on Shane Warne’s 708 before his career is done. England will as always be heavily reliant on him, while the experience and quality that Stuart Broad provides will also be key if he can stay fit. 

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Those two will be supported by Mark Wood given the absence of Jofra Archer, and his pace will be crucial on the Australian wickets. Craig Overton is likely to play the role of a workhouse on what is going to be a draining tour, while Chris Woakes and Ollie Robinson will need to contribute as the latter looks to put his social media troubles behind him.

The two spinners, Jack Leach and Dom Bess, are unlikely to feature prevalently too given the pitch conditions but Leach has proven he can step up with both ball and bat before. Ultimately, aside from Anderson and Broad, this is a mixed bag of a bowling line-up, which on its day could skittle the Aussies.

Rating 7/10

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