No Stokes or Archer in England squad for Ashes tour of Australia

By Sports Desk October 10, 2021

Ben Stokes was not included in the England squad for the Ashes tour of Australia.

The all-rounder was expected to be left out of the 17-man group after having a second operation on his broken index finger.

Stokes, who sustained the injury while playing in the Indian Premier League in April, announced in July he was taking a break from cricket to protect his mental wellbeing and allow his finger to recover.

Sam Curran, who was diagnosed with a stress fracture to his lower back in the past week, was also omitted from head coach Chris Silverwood's squad for the five-match series in Australia, which starts on December 8 in Brisbane.

Fast bowlers Jofra Archer and Olly Stone remain absent as they recover from injuries, but Stuart Broad is selected after suffering a torn calf muscle during England's home Test series with India in July.

Joe Root will be captain and Jos Buttler vice-captain of a side consisting entirely of players previously capped at Test level.

 

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) only confirmed on Friday that the tour would be going ahead amid possible concerns around coronavirus restrictions in Australia.

While "several critical conditions" must still be met for the Ashes to proceed, the ECB said "positive discussions" were ongoing and that "it is hoped matters will be resolved in due course".

Silverwood said he was "delighted that all of our available players have committed to the tour" despite the likes of Root and Buttler previously expressing doubts.

"A tour of Australia is the pinnacle as an England Test cricketer," he said.

"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."

England are looking to regain the urn after it was retained by Australia following a 2-2 series draw in 2019.

England squad for the Ashes:

Joe Root (captain), James Anderson, Jonny Bairstow, Dom Bess, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler (wicketkeeper), Zak Crawley, Haseeb Hameed, Dan Lawrence, Jack Leach, Dawid Malan, Craig Overton, Ollie Pope, Ollie Robinson, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood.

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    Reports on the eve of the first Test claimed Anderson was hampered by a calf problem, though the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) dismissed that claim on Tuesday.

    "Jimmy is fit to play, and is not carrying an injury," an ECB statement said. "With five Tests in six weeks the plan was to get him ready for the second Test in Adelaide.

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    "I think just with the build-up everyone has had, I think the guys just want to make sure everyone is perfect to go," Buttler told reporters.

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    "He is fit, but the guys are just being a bit cautious."

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    Stoking the fires

    Stokes has not played for his country since July, but declared himself fit to face Australia after taking a break to prioritise his mental well-being and fully recover from a fractured finger.

    The all-rounder was England's player of the series in an Ashes series two years ago that ended in a 2-2 draw, scoring 441 runs at an average of 55.12 and producing one of the great innings at Headingley to pull off an unlikely victory.

    Vice-captain Stokes' return should add strength to the middle order they have been lacking and Root will be hoping he can do some damage in short, sharp bursts with the ball.

     

    Root must keep racking up the runs

    It has been an incredible 2021 for Root, who has scored six Test centuries - including one double-hundred in Sri Lanka and another in India.

    The skipper said this tour will define his captaincy and England will need him to keep racking up the runs if they are to return home with a surprise series win.

    Only five batsmen have scored more Test centuries in a year than Root's tally, with Mohammad Yousuf holding the record with a staggering nine in 2006.

     

    Lack of pace potency?

    Not for the first time in Ashes, a lack of pace could be a big issue for England and how they would love to have a fit Jofra Archer firing.

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    Broad tormented Warner in the 2019 series, but the opener could be much more difficult to dismiss on home soil with a Kookaburra ball and returned to form in Australia's recent T20 World Cup triumph.

    Mark Wood is capable of doing damage but it remains to be seen how many Tests the injury-prone quick can play. Ollie Robinson could make a big impact in his first Ashes series and Chris Woakes can hit the sort of lengths to trouble batters in Australia.

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