Ashes squad player-by-player
No big surprises there, then. Perhaps the biggest was the news that 14 players, rather than the five suggested, will take up residence in Perth to act as cover.
They will be in place a week before the start of the first Test, probably a good plan with six of the first-choice 16 still doubtful, of which more later.
Here, then, are some quick thoughts on the 16 (and some even quicker ones).
Andrew Flintoff – Named as captain because of his inspirational style and ability to handle the highest pressure but he must prove he has recovered from ankle surgery sufficiently to play a full part in five Tests over eight weeks.
I asked him if he could play as a specialist batsman not up to bowling his full quota. He said: “I’m confident I’ll be bowling.”
Andrew Strauss – Must put his disappointment behind him to reproduce the sort of form he has shown this summer, when he hit two key second-innings centuries against Pakistan. There were two in similar style against Australia in 2005.
Marcus Trescothick – Another player with doubts hanging over him, he insists he will be able to face the pressure in Australia despite opting out of October’s ICC Champions Trophy in India because of a stress-related illness.
Alastair Cook – Australia will remember his double-century against them for Essex in a two-day game last summer, and he has taken to the Test arena like a duck to sliced white bread with three centuries in nine matches and an average of 54.35.
Kevin Pietersen – A year to the day since his 158 on this very ground clinched England’s first Ashes series victory in 18 years, Pietersen’s light has barely dimmed, although his tendency to get out to expansive shots hasn’t endeared him to everyone.
Ian Bell – Cowed by Shane Warne last summer, Bell spent some time away from the side working on his body language, and has not looked back. He will walk out at the Gabba in late November aiming for his fourth century in five Tests – an attempt at four in four was denied by the Pakistan’s Oval walk-out.
Paul Collingwood – Scored arguably the most important 10 in Test history a year ago today, occupying 72 minutes in partnership with Pietersen. A regular this summer, he currently looks like the batting reserve with Flintoff back in the side.
Chris Read – Ended a two-year spell in the wilderness when he returned in the middle of the Pakistan series and showed his batting has improved, as promised, with 126 occasionally unorthodox runs in three innings. Geraint Jones’ place in the squad will keep the pressure on but Read looks likely to start the series in Brisbane.
Geraint Jones – Has done little since being dropped to argue for a return but is a known quantity who performed adequately against Australia last year.
Monty Panesar – Dig out that comedy beard and download the mp3 of that song by The Automatic. The mania that accompanies the Mont-ster is about to be unleashed on Australia. Panesar can now be considered a wicket-taking option the equal of the fast bowlers who won the last series, and should be especially dangerous at spin-friendly Adelaide and Sydney.
Ashley Giles - England’s first-choice spinner when he last played, Giles has been out since November with a groin injury and faces a race against time to rediscover his old form. Perhaps oddly, he will travel to India in October but just train with the team. Nevertheless, coach Duncan Fletcher may lobby for his reliability over Panesar’s attacking threat.
Sajid Mahmood – England hope he will fill the shoes of the injured Simon Jones, who took 18 Ashes Test wickets at an average of 21 last summer but has not played since. Mahmood has displayed flashes of brilliance but is still searching for consistency.
Steve Harmison – Started the 2005 Ashes with a bang, taking five wickets at Lord’s but has run hot and cold since, with shin and back trouble limiting his effectiveness this year. At his best, though, he is a fast, hostile match-winner.
Matthew Hoggard – Asked his memories of his last visit to Brisbane, Hoggard singled out “That bloody left-hander”, Matthew Hayden, who smashed 186 on the first day of the 2002/03 series. Hoggard, who has played in the last 36 consecutive Tests, will prosper if the new ball swings but must focus on his consistency with the older cherry if the early breakthroughs do not come.
James Anderson – He burst onto the international scene during the one-day portion of the last Ashes tour but Anderson spent time in the wilderness, refining his action, and had only just returned to his best when a back injury ruined his 2006 summer. It would be expecting a lot to throw him cold into an Ashes Test.
Liam Plunkett – Impressed in six Tests and 16 ODIs between last November and July, when he suffered a side injury. He started bowling again in the nets this week but will not get to play before the end of the county season. Many see him, rather than Mahmood, as a replacement Simon Jones as he is skiddier and shapes the ball well.