The Ashes 2013: Picking a Combined England-Australia XI

Freddie Wilde@@fwildecricketContributor IAugust 16, 2013

The Ashes 2013: Picking a Combined England-Australia XI

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    Australia trail England by three Tests to none in this summer's Ashes series.

    But how do the teams compare when matched man-to-man?

    Michael Clarke is regularly spoken of as Australia's one truly world-class talent, and would walk into the England side—but who else would?

    Begin the slideshow to find out. 

Alastair Cook

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    Cook has not hit the heights he is capable of with the bat thus far in this Ashes series, but the captain remains a certainty for selection in this combined XI. 

    One of the most prolific run-scorers in world cricket, he has that rare ability to score enormous hundreds. Whilst that hasn't been on display this summer, he has played a couple of vital innings under pressure, scoring runs when his team most needs them. 

    With a run-scoring rate similar to that of Sachin Tendulkar, there is no way this man cannot be in the combined XI. 

Chris Rogers

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    Chris Rogers is the first Australian player to make the combined XI.

    Joe Root is his English equivalent, and he has (the 180 at Lord's aside) struggled in this Ashes series. Root's back foot technique has been severely tested by Australia's new ball pairing and, whilst not out of his depth, he has not appeared at ease.

    Rogers has long been ignored by Australia, but since being selected at the beginning of this series he's been impressively consistent, scoring two fifties and a fairytale hundred in the most recent Test.

    At 35, Rogers has plenty of experience—and is a reliable opening partner for Cook.

Jonathan Trott

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    Averaging just 24 in the series, Jonathan Trott has been one of England's biggest disappointments. However, Australia have bowled brilliantly at the right-hander and he scored a useful fifty at Nottingham. 

    What's more, his Australian counterparts in this series, Ed Cowan and Usman Khawaja, have not made a strong case for selection in the combined XI.

    Trott has had a staggering international career to date, and although he has struggled of late, his average of 47 is still very impressive. Trott's technique is relatively watertight and will provide a steady hand in a difficult position.

Kevin Pietersen

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    On his day, Kevin Pietersen can be one most the most destructive batsmen on the planet.

    He has played more than a handful of match-winning innings for England and is one of the first names on the team sheet.

    Combining awesome power and hand-eye coordination with an astute cricket brain, he has begun to rein in his natural instincts recently in favour of grinding out more runs.

    Steve Smith, his Australian counterpart at number four, does not stand a chance of selection over Pietersen.

Michael Clarke*

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    Clarke is a certainty for selection in this combined XI. He is Australia's one truly special player. 

    He has always been a batsman of enormous talent, but in the past 24 months, with the added burden of captaincy, he has matured into a prolific run-machine—and has scored with style and grace. 

    He is the captain of this Combined XI. Not because Cook is a particularly bad skipper—far from it, as this article suggests—but Clarke has developed an acute tactical brain.

    Clarke should not be batting at five in a weak Australian side, but he can do so in this stronger combined team.

Ian Bell

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    Ian Bell might not have batted at six in this series, but he can't very well be left out of the combined XI after a summer in which he scored three centuries in the first four Tests.

    Besides, there is little competition at the position—Jonny Bairstow has struggled for England, while Australia have played at various stages Steve Smith, David Warner and Shane Watson there. And the fact they've had three different men in the job indicates none of them did it with any distinction.

Matt Prior

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    Matt Prior has had the worst series of any England player. He has really struggled to make an impact, averaging just 14 runs.

    His struggles extend past this series, having also failed against New Zealand earlier in the summer. His poor patch of form ironically arrives after being named as England's Player of the Year prior to the season. 

    However, as is the case with Jonathan Trott, Prior's record is too good to ignore. He has proven to be one of England's most valuable players in recent times with both bat and gloves, not to mention the fact that he has become particularly useful in utilising the Decision Review System. 

    Brad Haddin is a worthy competitor for the keeping slot, and has had an okay series, but Prior's class gets him in.

Stuart Broad

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    Stuart Broad almost single-handedly won England the fourth Test in just one session, taking six wickets.

    At his best, Broad is irresistible: he can bowl with pace, aggression, accuracy and cunning. He's strangely sporadic at times, but is a match-winning bowler; and, even when not in his best form, a wicket-taking option. 

    Broad is also a more-than-useful lower-order batsmen, who appears to bring his best to the match when his team most need it—a valuable trait. He's an experienced international cricketer and will bring knowledge to the bowling attack.

Graeme Swann

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    Graeme Swann wins the battle of the spinners with Nathan Lyon.

    Lyon was only picked for the third Test in this series, which demonstrates Australia's lack of confidence in him. He's not bowled badly since then, but Swann has done better—taking two five-wicket hauls in the series.

    Swann also has impressive international pedigree, with over 200 Test wickets, and is an excellent fielder and a strong hitter with the bat. 

Ryan Harris

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    The final Australian in the starting XI is right-arm paceman, Ryan Harris. 

    Harris has been immensely unfortunate with injuries during his career, which has sadly restrained a great talent. In this series, since being selected for the second Test at Lord's, he has shown how dangerous he can be when fit.

    His success has led some pundits to claim that if he had a more reliable body, he would be one of the world's leading bowlers. 

    He bowls with aggression and hostility from an awkward back of a length. Australia have a strong bowling attack—and Harris is their best bowler.

James Anderson

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    England's attack leader is the final player in this combined XI.

    Anderson had a wonderful start to the series, almost single-handedly winning the Trent Bridge Test, and he bowled well at Lord's. He has struggled in the subsequent two Tests, appearing jaded, which is understandable. 

    Anderson is an enormously skilful bowler and an understated leader of an attack, offering wisdom and input to his teammates. He already boasts an impressive record and is on track to become the leading English wicket-taker in Test history.

    Even if he'd had a poor series, he would have been selected in this team.

England 8| Australia 3

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    It is probably a fair reflection on the state of the two teams that England have eight representatives and Australia two. 

    England are a strong team in almost every position and only Clarke at number five was a certain Australian selection.

    Harris and Rogers have had very strong series and their English counterparts have struggled. 

    This team is a strong one that could probably beat every international side except South Africa but may struggle with spin on the Subcontinent.