NASSER HUSSAIN: England's squad for the Ashes is VERY predictable

NASSER HUSSAIN: England’s squad for the Ashes is VERY predictable… Chris Silverwood and Joe Root should have taken a punt on Matt Parkinson and Liam Livingstone

  • England have picked a very predictable Ashes squad for the tour Down Under 
  • Overlooking Saqib Mahmood and Matt Parkinson were the surprise omissions 
  • Liam Livingstone would have also provided the X-factor in the middle order
  • The absence of Ben Stokes provides Joe Root with a huge selection headache 

England have picked a very predictable Ashes squad, avoiding selecting any uncapped players and refusing to take any kind of risk.

The two surprises for me were overlooking Saqib Mahmood and Matt Parkinson.

Saqib would have given a different element to the attack in Australian conditions with his skiddy reverse swing, in the absence of the pace of Jofra Archer and Olly Stone.

England’s squad for this year’s Ashes is very predictable with no risks taken by the tourists

And I would have gone for Parkinson’s leg-spin instead of Dom Bess. I would have liked a bit of wrist spin available to me as captain — if not Parkinson, then Mason Crane.

But Chris Silverwood and Joe Root like loyalty and consistency in selection, so have stuck with their two capped spinners. I’d also have taken a punt on Liam Livingstone, an in-your-face, confident cricketer in the mould of Kevin Pietersen and Ben Stokes. He’s someone who could take the attack to the opposition from his natural, middle-order position.

The absence of Stokes is the biggest concern. It gives England a massive selection headache. Without him, it will be a nightmare trying to balance the side and I envisage England going into matches with an all-seam attack backed up by Root’s off-spin.

Saqib Mahmood (L) and Matt Parkinson’s (R) omissions were the biggest surprises for me

Liam Livingstone would have also offered an X-factor to take the game to the Australians

Without someone of Stokes’s all-round calibre, you are either sacrificing a batsman and creating a long tail, or muddling through with a four-man attack including a frontline spinner. With the Kookaburra ball, that is a daunting prospect.

The ball goes soft after 10-12 overs and does nothing after that, which is why Saqib would have provided variation.

A lack of ‘X factor’ in the bowling attack is a bit of a worry and they’ll need to inject some pace, which means Mark Wood becomes a pivotal player. How they use him and how many games in a row he can play becomes vital. But history tells us that you cannot field a one-pace bowling unit of four right-arm medium fast bowlers in Australian conditions.

You also need to score massive runs. In England, if you get 300 in the first innings, you are probably in the game. Get that score in Australia and you’re going to lose.

Ben Stokes’ absence is a huge miss for England and gives Joe Root selection headaches

It means the batting line-up has to churn out big runs and not leave the scoring to Root.

The England captain will want to contribute as a batter, of course, and is yet to score a Test hundred in Australia. But they have also backed younger players including Ollie Pope and Zak Crawley. Now is the time for them to deliver.

Australia is a brilliant place to bat. I never went on an Ashes tour worried about that side of things. England have a real belief in Crawley but his statistics, aside from his remarkable double hundred against Pakistan a couple of years ago, don’t back it up.

He has a mediocre record for county and country. Yet if anyone had seen that big innings in isolation, they would have recognised his potential.

And potential is something Root will be able to call upon during the 11-week trip. Tours are not as rigid as they used to be and if the team management feel they need something different, such as Saqib, Parkinson or a different opener, they shouldn’t be afraid to draft in a player from the concurrent England Lions tour.

Root has failed to score a century Down Under but he should have no concerns on this tour

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