Running the rule over the 14 man squad England has chosen for the first Ashes Test this Thursday is an interesting task.
Compared to the ruminations over what the final XI will be for the Australians when they front up for the toss on Thursday evening, England has such an abundance of options that their one glaring weakness is something that they should really be able to overcome with some ease.
England has had a revolving door when it comes to the opening batting for years. As has been mentioned a thousand times, they have spent seven years trying to find someone to replace Andrew Strauss as Alastair Cook’s opening partner at the top of the order, and now that Cook has retired they are still struggling to find these replacements.
Now they have to find two who can make a batting partnership that will do the job for them, and they don’t look to be any closer than they have been. They have three options to fill the two places, assuming they are too frozen in fright to consider moving any of their other batting options into the role.
Those three are Joe Denly, Rory Burns and Jason Roy. Denly looks compact but without form behind him. Burns has a technique that looks as though he is trying to bat using the edge of the bat as the face and looks a candidate for caught behind.
Roy has shown his prowess in the one day format on flat tracks and straight deliveries, but doesn’t look technically capable against the ball that moves and with more than one slip fieldsman.
Despite all this England look likely to stick with Burns and Roy, and they will be hoping that Roy can give them the kind of start he has done in the one day games while Burns holds his ground and nudges the ball around. If they both achieve this then they will have done their job.
He may have tried to avoid batting at three in the Test team, but in terms of team balance there looks to be no alternative to Joe Root stepping up to the platform this series.
He is the best credentialled batsman in the team, and if he wants to regain the Ashes he needs to lead from the front. This will allow his foot soldiers to fall into line behind him – Jonny Bairstow at four, Ben Stokes at five, Jos Buttler at six and Moeen Ali at seven.
Perhaps in many minds these batsmen all have to prove themselves at Test level like they have at ODI level, but they all have the ability to do so. Certainly, England’s five and six look a lot more dangerous than Australia’s.
With both Stokes and Moeen in the top seven, England now has the opportunity to go for the kill with a four-pronged pace attack with the ball. No doubt both James Anderson and Stuart Broad will be chosen as long as they are fit.
Chris Woakes should also be a walk-up start, adding another seam option as well as lengthening the batting line up further. That would leave only one place remaining for the three other aspirants.
Olly Stone looks to be the drinks waiter given the quality of those bowlers in front of him, which would leave a choice between the incumbent all-round abilities of Sam Curran or the pace talismanic ability of Jofra Archer.
You would expect they would stick with Curran if for no other reason than he seems to score around 30 runs every time he comes to the crease but it is by no means absolute.
Indeed, if they chose to use Root’s off spin capabilities they could even leave Moeen out of the side and play Woakes at seven, Curran at eight and Archer at nine which combined would probably score just as many runs through those three positions in the order.
England may not be as proven in the Test arena as they are elsewhere, but they have quality batsmen and bowlers and have not lost a home Ashes series since 2001. Australia has struggled since the last Ashes series in 2017-18 and are nowhere near as settled in team make up as the home team.
If England are not firm favourites in this series then there is a real problem in their mindset, which would only suit Australia. The stumble against Ireland aside, England look the team to beat.