Let’s assume that by the end of the year COVID-19 is under control and that the Ashes can go ahead, with crowds.
Let’s assume that the imbroglio about England player partners accompanying them is sorted out.
Let’s also assume that England has a reasonable core of players to choose from.
Assuming all that, I have a 20-man squad for the Ashes.
Saqib Mahmood/George Garton
This line up has pace and guile, the former especially in the case of Mark Wood, although he himself is injured again.
I reluctantly picked Anderson and Broad (assuming fit from a calf strain) because Father Time is marching on and, particularly in the case of Anderson, his record Down Under is not flattering. He needs the conditions to swing the ball, which he does not get in Australia for very long. Nonetheless, he and Broad are hard to ignore, especially when a number of other choices are not available.
I have opted for options with more pace, hence the inclusion of Mahmood and/or Garton.
Experience, especially the experience of England teams, tells us that bowlers without some shock value are unlikely to succeed in Australia. Overton impressed last time, especially under lights at Adelaide, and his height and bounce could trouble the Aussie bats.
I have left out Sam Curran as I am unconvinced, despite being a left armer adding variety, that his flatter trajectory military medium bowling would succeed in Australia.
Two medium pace all-rounders are chosen and the spinning all-rounder in Ali.
Ben Stokes’ recovery is absolutely critical as his absence during the last Ashes tour was a death knell for the side. Ali’s return to the side as a spinning all-rounder should be rewarded with an Ashes trip and his batting down the order is clearly an attacking asset although he had his troubles with Nathan Lyon last time. He can keep things ticking over batting at number eight or so.
Woakes as the other back up all-rounder is solid and he has improved his pace in recent times.
Leach provides solid spin rather than vicious turn but his left armers could again add variety and help tie up an end.
In support (apart from Ali) is the uncapped Parkinson. While a leg spinner from England is somewhat of a rarity, Parkinson has promise and comes with Shane Warne’s endorsement. One could not get much better than that.
The top order is a mess. One could not pick Dom Sibley on the score of his performances thus far. Burns deserves to be in the team – although his unorthodox technique is a concern, he is a gritty fighter.
I have opted for Haseeb Hameed who is believed to be a tighter, more mature player five years on from his debut although his performance in the most recent Test against India was less than encouraging.
For back up I have opted for Crawley, who displays promise and is an attractive strokeplayer although his tendency to waft outside the off stump is problematic. I considered James Vince as well, who had a number of starts in Australia last time but did not go on with it, but solidity and stability is needed at the top rather than flair.
In the light of this I have Dawid Malan earmarked for number three. He had a good maiden tour of Australia four years ago, with a fine century in Perth, and is a reasonably tight player who has added more layers to his game, as reflected in T20 performances.
The other batsmen are Root, who speaks of for himself and upon whom the team is dangerously reliant on; Pope, one of the most promising batsmen in the land; and the dashing but inconsistent Bairstow, who provides an attacking option and counterpunching ability in the middle order.
Dan Lawrence is not worthy of selection on performances to date although he has not helped by being shuffled up and down the order.
Buttler provides unorthodox batting and his keeping has improved, while Foakes is the more traditional keeper with a good deal of batting capability to boot.
The remainder of the Tests against India will be defining for a number of players.
All in all this is a reasonably competitive squad that could cause some surprises against an Australian team that does not quite have the same aura of invincibility at home.