England’s Ashes squad – who are the new boys?

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Happier days for Root, happier days for England. England's Joe Root celebrates his century during play on Day 3 of the second Ashes Test at Lord's. AFP PHOTO / CARL COURT

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The return Ashes series is looming and England will head down under hungry to win four consecutive Ashes series for the first time since the 19th Century.

They’ve now not lost a Test match since Ahmedabad in November 2012 and have a pretty settled side.

That didn’t mean, however, last week’s squad announcement passed without surprise.

The selectors cast aside Chris Woakes and Simon Kerrigan, who made their debuts in the drawn final Test at the Oval, and have gone for bulk over guile in their bowling attack, selecting Steven Finn, Chris Tremlett and Boyd Rankin at the expense of county stalwart Graham Onions.

They will hope Monty Panesar’s tricky summer is behind him as he is recalled to back Graeme Swann up in the tweakers department, while Jonny Bairstow has also survived and is favourite to bat at the troublesome number six position in Brisbane. He also provides cover for vice-captain Matt Prior behind the stumps.

Aggressive all-rounder Ben Stokes capped a fine season for County champions Durham with a call-up, while two new batsmen provided the biggest surprise of all, with veteran opener Michael Carberry and Zimbabwe-born Gary Ballance edging out Nick Compton and James Taylor.

Aussie fans will be familiar with most of the squad, but here’s a look at Carberry, Ballance, Stokes and Rankin, the only four yet to play an Ashes Test:

Michael Carberry
Now 33, Carberry has been English cricket’s nearly-man for years and it is something of a surprise his second coming has occurred at this late stage.

He certainly did not disgrace himself in his solitary Test against Bangladesh in 2010 and has been immensely unlucky not to appear since.

Didn’t look himself in the one day internationals against Australia as the curtain fell on the English season and 2013 has not been his finest year in red-ball cricket, even if the Hampshire man has been in electric form in the game’s shorter forms.

Carberry allies patience with dashing stroke play and would certainly not let England down if called upon at the top of the order.

Perhaps a touch lucky to get the call ahead of Compton, who knuckled down after his early season omission, but not a single person in England is begrudging the popular ‘Carbs’ his moment in the sun.

Gary Ballance
This guy has exploded onto the scene in 2013, scoring more runs in Division One of the County Championship than anybody else.

Capped his call-up last week with twin centuries against Surrey to take his tally for the season to 1251 runs at 62.55, including five tons.

Ended up at Yorkshire via Harare, Harrow and Derbyshire, Ballance might just be the man to displace his county colleague Bairstow and provide the answer at number six – a question that has remained unresolved since Ian Bell’s promotion upon Paul Collingwood’s retirement in 2011.

Ballance is a headline writer’s dream and has all the shots in the book.

The burly southpaw visited Australia with England Lions last winter and his three half-centuries meant he was one of only a few players to come away with his reputation advanced on the winless tour.

Ben Stokes
That Lions tour may not hold such fond memories for Stokes who, along with then Kent man Matt Coles, was sent home for the sort of late night revelry that would have made England’s last genuine all-rounder, Andrew Flintoff, proud.

2013 has seen him put those troubles to bed, however, as he has been instrumental in Durham’s extraordinary County Championship triumph.

He hasn’t been at his best with the bat, with just one Championship century, but his bowling has come on in leaps and bounds, picking up 42 wickets at 26.57.

He bowls with spark and aggression, often at speeds upwards of 90mph.

Looked ready for international cricket in the ODI series against Australia, when played in a three man pace attack, and even picked up a five wicket haul in the deciding match at the Rose Bowl, Southampton.

He’s a fiery character who is always up for the fight and is most likely to feature as a number six or seven batsman and fourth pace bowler this winter.

Boyd Rankin
Rankin is a farmer from Londonderry in Northern Ireland, who made more than 50 appearances for Ireland in the game’s shorter forms before switching his allegiances to England in search of Test cricket.

Something of a late comer at the age of 29, Rankin looked well-equipped for the rigours of Test cricket when picking up five wickets at 21 in the recent ODI series.

A giant of a man who bowls in a similar manner to Tremlett, it was not expected that both would board the plane to Australia.

However, with Rankin the man in form and Tremlett Australia’s tormenter in chief last time round, England’s selectors chose to take both at the expense of Onions’ consistency.

Rankin took 31 wickets at 23 in nine Championship matches for Warwickshire this year and, with Tim Bresnan injured and question marks surrounding the form of Finn and Tremlett, he may well be in pole position to make his Test debut at the Gabba.

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