Amid all the hype, England have chosen their team for the first Test of Ashes 2015, which will be starting next week. As expected, there aren't too many surprises in the 13-man squad. The core of the team that was part of England's 1-1 draw against New Zealand has been retained. Adil Rashid and Steven Finn are the two players added to the squad, which features the eleven, who took part in the second Test of the series against New Zealand. Among the players, Rashid did not attend the training camp in Spain, but has been chosen on the basis of his impressive showing in the ODIs.
While most of the members of the England side picked themselves up automatically, there was a debate over the spots of Rashid and Moeen Ali. It was believed they were contesting for the spinning all-rounder's slot. However, the England selectors have decided to retain both, which would make the selection for the first Test even more interesting. There are very few possibilities of England going in with two spinners. This means either of Ali or Rashid will have to sit out. Both the spinners offer diverse options. While Ali is the better batsmen, Rashid is definitely the better bowler, but he hasn't played Tests as yet.
The spot of Gary Ballance was also under the scanner. He has been struggling to get runs in recent Tests, but the selectors were convinced that this is only a minor blip in form. Ballance has a few issues that he needs to sort out in regards to his technique. It will be crucial for England that he gets his act in place before the Test matches begin. With the retirement of Jonathan Trott, England brought in Adam Lyth to open the innings with Alastair Cook. Lyth has made a good start to his career, and has also notched up his maiden hundred. But, the Ashes will give us a fairer idea of whether the Lyth-Cook combo was one for future.
Following his match-winning innings in the decider against New Zealand, Jonny Bairstow had stormed his way into contention for the Ashes. But, with Jos Buttler being declared fit, the selectors have decided to play it safe. Bairstow has featured in Tests before, and his technique has been exposed. England could not risk him in such a high-profile series. He is better of playing the shorter formats for now. Chris Jordan, who hasn't done well recently, finds himself out of the squad while Liam Plunkett remains injured. As a result, Finn may get a chance to improve his Test numbers.
With Australia in such great form, England will need their experienced players to stand up for sure. Ian Bell is now the only surviving player from the historic 2005 Ashes. He will have a major role to play as will Joe Root, currently England's best batsman. In the bowling, England would again depend on James Anderson and Stuart Broad. The newcomer Mark Wood has been impressive, and England would have hopes from him although Australia will be a big test. The series will also be important for Ben Stokes, who is trying to step into the all-rounder's shoes, left vacant by Andrew Flintoff, as well as new coach Trevor Bayliss,
England squad for 1st Test: Alastair Cook (c), Adam Lyth, Gary Ballance, Ian Bell, Joe Root, Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler (wk), Moeen Ali, Stuart Broad, Mark Wood, James Anderson, Adil Rashid, Steven Finn
--By A Cricket Analyst