England have announced a near full-strength squad for the Ashes 2021/22, scheduled to begin in Brisbane on December 8. Ben Stokes, Jofra Archer and Sam Curran are the three big names missing from the 17-man squad that will travel to Australia.
Beaten in six of their last nine Tests, England's squad features 10 players who will be touring Australia in an Ashes series for the first time. Stokes was not available for selection and continues to take an indefinite break from all cricket to prioritise his mental wellbeing and rehabilitation from his injured left index finger.
Curran was not considered for selection after a second scan confirmed that he has a stress fracture in his lower back, which he sustained during the ongoing Indian Premier League. Meanwhile, Archer (elbow injury) won't be available for at least four-five months.
The Ashes tour had been the subject of tense negotiations after England's players and their families expressed concerns over tough Covid quarantine restrictions in Australia. England Test captain Joe Root and vice-captain Jos Buttler both hinted they might not travel if their fears were not eased.
But following a breakthrough in talks with Cricket Australia, the England and Wales Cricket Board on Friday said they had given "conditional approval" for the tour to go ahead. Both Root and Buttler have been named in the 17-man squad for the tour and there were no Covid opt-outs.
Veterans James Anderson and Stuart Broad head up the seam bowling for what may well be their Ashes swansongs, with support from fellow pacemen Chris Woakes, Mark Wood and Ollie Robinson. Broad will embark on his fourth Ashes tour after making "excellent progress" from a torn right calf sustained during the Test series against India.
Moeen Ali's retirement from Test action left the way clear for Jack Leach and Dom Bess to take up two spinners slots. Haseeb Hameed travels despite missing out on a central contract this week. Buttler, Woakes, Wood, Jonny Bairstow and Dawid Malan will all head to Australia straight from a month with England at the Twenty20 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates.
"A tour of Australia is the pinnacle as an England Test cricketer. I am delighted that all of our available players have committed to the tour. We are looking forward to touring and enjoying the experience of this historic series," said head coach Chris Silverwood.
"This is why we play and coach to be involved in iconic series like this. More than half of our squad haven't featured in an Ashes tour before, which means we will be fresh and looking to embrace the cricket and the excitement of touring one of the best places in the world.
"I believe we have selected a well-balanced squad with options in all areas and a blend of youth and experience. There is real competition for places and a genuine desire to work hard and compete, aiming to create some history. We are under no illusions about how difficult the task is going to be. Australia have been strong at home in the past, and there is an expectation on them to win this series.
"Both teams are in similar positions in the Test world rankings. For that reason, it should be a compelling series. We can enjoy the build-up to the tour, get out there, and prepare well ahead of the first Test in Brisbane."
Australia are the current holders of the Ashes after retaining the urn following a 2-2 draw in England in 2019. They also won the last series "Down Under" 4-0 in 2017/18.
Along with the main Test squad, England will also name a separate Lions party in due course. That group will be on stand-by in the event of injury and will serve as warm-up opposition before the five-match Test series starts.
The ECB said the tour is still subject to "several critical conditions" being met by Cricket Australia before the team travels in November.
Squad: Joe Root (c), James Anderson, Jonny Bairstow, Dom Bess, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Zak Crawley, Haseeb Hameed, Dan Lawrence, Jack Leach, Dawid Malan, Craig Overton, Ollie Pope, Ollie Robinson, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood.
(With inputs from AFP)