The Ashes: England to select squad for winter tour of Australia

England celebrate
England beat Australia 3-2 to win the Ashes on home soil in 2015
The Ashes
Venue: Australia Dates: 23 November 2017 - 7 January 2018
Coverage: Ball-by-ball Test Match Special commentary on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra, Radio 4 LW, online, tablets, mobiles and BBC Sport app. Live text commentary on the BBC Sport website.

England will select their squad for this winter's Ashes series in Australia on Wednesday, with the main decisions likely to be focused on their batting.

A number of batsmen have been trialled in top-order positions this summer but none have fully convinced.

James Vince is in contention to replace Tom Westley, who bruised his hand playing for Essex on Monday.

Ben Stokes is likely to be picked despite his arrest on suspicion of causing actual bodily harm.

The 26-year-old all-rounder, who is also England's vice-captain, will miss his country's fourth one-day international against West Indies on Wednesday after he was held overnight following the incident outside a Bristol nightclub in the early hours of Monday.

Batsman Alex Hales, who is another of those under consideration for the Ashes, was with Stokes and will also miss the ODI at the Oval.

Director of cricket Andrew Strauss indicated Durham player Stokes and 28-year-old Nottinghamshire batsman Hales would be considered on cricketing grounds alone.

"Selectors have been instructed to select the Ashes squad based on form and fitness as they normally would do," said Strauss.

In July, England head coach Trevor Bayliss stated the Ashes squad is likely to be populated with players that have been used in the previous 18 months.

England are the current holders of the Ashes, having beaten Australia 3-2 on home soil in 2015.

They have won five of the last seven series, but lost heavily the last time they toured Australia in 2013-14.

The problem positions...

Alastair Cook and Mark Stoneman
Mark Stoneman partnered Alastair Cook at the top of the order throughout the series against West Indies

Captain Joe Root, his predecessor and opener Alastair Cook, and wicketkeeper-batsman Jonny Bairstow are sure to be selected in the touring party by virtue of their ability, experience and weight of runs.

However, England are still to find a convincing partner for Cook at the top of the order, and reliable run-makers at numbers three and five.

Surrey's Mark Stoneman - the 12th man to partner Cook in the last five years - opened in all three of the recent home Tests against the West Indies but scored just 120 runs in five innings at an average of 30.

Keaton Jennings, who this week agreed to join Lancashire from Durham, is his biggest rival, especially after his soon-to-be county team-mate Haseeb Hameed fractured his finger last week.

However, Jennings is short of runs himself, having scored 128 runs in eight innings against South Africa this summer and with a highest first-class score of just 17 since.

The number three spot is no clearer, with the man in possession - Westley - top-scoring with 44 not out and averaging 17.75 from five innings against West Indies.

Inexperienced Hampshire batsman Vince, who is averaging 33.11 in the County Championship, is another candidate, while the idea of moving Root from four to three divides opinion...

Should Joe Root bat at number three?
Former England spinner Graeme Swann: "Root needs to get up the order to three. England need somebody scoring heavily in their top three, like Michael Vaughan and Alastair Cook have done in recent years."
Ex-England captain and number three Michael Vaughan: "England need to find a three and not move Joe Root up to three. Australia will want him at three - they'll want England's two best batsmen, Root and Cook, exposed to the new ball as early as possible. I think somebody who has not been mentioned and who could bat at three is James Vince. If somebody bowls a half-volley, he'll put it away. I worry about Keaton Jennings' mindset. He's had such a tough summer."

Middlesex's Dawid Malan, who like Westley made his debut against South Africa this summer and averages 23.62 in Tests, and Yorkshire's Gary Ballance, who is fit again after breaking his finger in the third Test against Proteas, are rivals for the number five spot.

Ben Foakes and Jos Buttler are battling it out for the back-up wicketkeeper spot.

England's potential Ashes top-five batsmen
Test runsTest averageTest runs in AusTest ave in AusFirst-class runs 2017F-c ave 2017
Alastair Cook11,62946.331,28849.5366766.70
Mark Stoneman12030.00--1,05858.77
Keaton Jennings29425.50--47026.11
Alex Hales57327.28--42447.11
Sam Robson33630.54--77740.89
Tom Westley19324.12--56143.15
James Vince21219.27--59633.11
Joe Root5,32353.7619227.422211.00
Dawid Malan18923.62--46438.67
Gary Ballance1,49837.452512.5094672.76

Wood fitness and a spin dilemma

Leading all-time wicket-taker James Anderson and regular new-ball partner Stuart Broad are certain to travel, having led England's bowling attack throughout the summer when fit, and are likely to be joined by Chris Woakes.

Nottinghamshire's Jake Ball - possessing height and the ability to generate bounce - could well be the beneficiary of the stress fracture fellow seamer Toby Roland-Jones has suffered to his lower back.

Yorkshire's Liam Plunkett, who took 5-52 in Sunday's ODI win over the West Indies, is another option, as is Somerset's Craig Overton, who has taken 46 County Championship wickets this season.

Durham's Mark Wood - England's fastest bowler - is a doubt because of a persistent heel problem, but England could retain him as an option by sending him to Australia with the Lions, who tour the country at the same time as the senior squad.

Moeen Ali remains England's frontline spinner, but they have yet to settle on an understudy.

Hampshire's 20-year-old leg-spinner Mason Crane has been with the squad during the West Indies series but did not play and lacks not only Test but County Championship experience, having played just seven games this season, in which he took 16 wickets.

The more experienced Adil Rashid, who last played Test cricket in India in December 2016, and Somerset's Jack Leach are the other likely options.

England's potential Ashes bowlers
Test wktsTest averageTest wkts in AusTest ave in AusFirst-class wkts 2017F-c ave 2017
James Anderson50627.394338.441524.86
Stuart Broad38828.812332.131620.87
Chris Woakes5030.60--722.71
Jake Ball2114.00--2725.00
Mark Wood2640.65--1327.92
Craig Overton----4622.26
Liam Plunkett4137.46--622.66
Moeen Ali12837.32--355.33
Mason Crane----1643.87
Adil Rashid3842.78--1050.00
Jack Leach----4627.34

England begin the tour against a Western Australia XI on 4 November, with the first of their five Tests beginning on 23 November in Brisbane. The teams will also play each other in five one-day internationals.

Australia coach Darren Lehmann and fellow selectors Trevor Hohns and Greg Chappell will name their Ashes squad in November.

England in Australia 2017-18 - Ashes Tests
23-27 November - 1st Test, Brisbane (00:00 GMT)
2-6 December - 2nd Test, Adelaide (d/n) (04:00 GMT)
14-18 December - 3rd Test, Perth (Waca) (02:30 GMT)
26-30 December - 4th Test, Melbourne (23:30 GMT, 25-29 Dec)
4-8 January - 5th Test, Sydney (23:30 GMT, 3-7 Jan)

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