Assessing the England Performance Squad to Travel to Australia
England announced a 16-man Performance Programme squad last month to act as backup to their main Ashes Test party, and we are here to run the rule over the next batch of potential stars.
The squad leave for Australia on Nov. 14, and they will play three-day fixtures in both Brisbane and Perth, as well as undertaking both training and conditioning work while Down Under.
There are just four members of the party with international experience with England, spinners Danny Briggs and Simon Kerrigan, wicketkeeper Jos Butler and paceman Chris Jordan.
Meanwhile, both Durham’s Mark Wood and Somerset’s Jamie Overton will remain behind in the UK to concentrate on strength and conditioning work.
Moeen Ali (Worcestershire)
Strengths: At times, he can be an explosive and incredibly dangerous batsman capable of taking apart any bowling attack.
Weaknesses: Ali has not really kicked on after his breakthrough summer in 2010, with his form falling away comparatively in 2011 and 2012, so it will be intriguing to see how he fares Down Under this winter.
Danny Briggs (Hampshire)
Strengths: Briggs gives the ball real air, which is encouraging for someone of his age, and has a degree of confidence in his game which bodes well for the future.
Weaknesses: He needs to work on his accuracy and still has a long way to go until he can match up to his cricketing hero, and the bowler he models himself on, New Zealand’s Daniel Vettori, in this regard.
Jos Buttler (Lancashire)
Strengths: Butler is a powerful, clean-striking yet unorthodox middle-order batsman with pretty much every shot in the book, coupled with a calm authority at the crease, even when under the most extreme pressure.
Weaknesses: On initial evidence, he doesn't have many, although he still needs to work on his glove work with wicket-keeping coach Bruce French. However, even that has improved markedly in recent months.
Varun Chopra (Warwickshire)
Right-handed opening batsmen
Strengths: Concentration, solid technique and the ability to bat and occupy the crease for long periods of time.
Weaknesses: Chopra has really taken time to fully develop his game after a bright start to his cricketing career with Essex and the England Under-19s, and this winter tour of Australia could be his last chance to fulfil that obvious early potential.
Ben Foakes (Essex)
Strengths: The young Essex wicketkeeper-batsman has masses of potential, hence his selection for the performance squad, and really caught the eye for England U-19s at the 2012 World Cup, when he was his country’s leading run scorer in the tournament.
Weaknesses: He is still very raw with much to learn about the game, particularly in the art of keeping wicket.
James Harris (Middlesex)
Right-arm fast-medium bowler
Strengths: Possessing pace and an ability to take wickets, even on flat pitches, which are always good skills for any bowler to have, it will be fascinating to see how he fares with the Kookaburra ball on Australia’s flat pitches this winter.
Weaknesses: Susceptible to picking up injuries, especially groin problems, in recent seasons due to over bowling that has hampered his previous impressive progress.
Chris Jordan (Sussex)
Right-arm fast-medium bowler
Strengths: Jordan has deceptive pace for a bowler with his run-up that often hurries batsmen, while he also bowls a heavy delivery that makes him hard to pull.
Weaknesses: His lack of control can often let him down and makes it hard to build up pressure on a batsman.
Simon Kerrigan (Lancashire)
Strengths: Kerrigan has a nice loop and flight to his bowling and can also at times spin the ball prodigiously, although we did not see that on his Test debut against Australia at the Oval in August.
Weaknesses: On the evidence of that fateful fifth Test against the Aussies, nerves and confidence are clearly an issue at the very highest level, something he must cure if he wants to make it to the top.
Alex Lees (Yorkshire)
Left-handed opening batsman
Strengths: Lees has seemingly outrageous talent for one so young and with such little first-class experience, although he has already demonstrated in his fledgling career that he has the temperament, concentration, shot selection and skill to score hundreds.
Weaknesses: He can be susceptible outside off stump, although what left-handed opener is not, but it will still be intriguing to note how he develops and gets on this winter.
Tymal Mills (Essex)
Left-arm fast bowler
Strengths: Pace, pace and more pace, with the Essex bowler having even been recorded at 90-plus mph for his county by Sky last year, so it should be fun watching him on Australia’s fast, bouncy wickets this winter.
Weaknesses: It is worth remembering that he is still very young, inexperienced and raw.
Sam Robson (Middlesex)
Strengths: The Sydney-born star in the making just loves to bat, and what is more, he has a sound technique that should see him go places on the international stage in the future.
Weaknesses: On initial viewing, he does not seem to have many, but that may change after a winter spent competing against his countrymen.
Reece Topley (Essex)
Left-arm medium-fast bowler
Strengths: With impressive height (6'7") and maturity for someone so young, the Essex paceman was the standout bowler in the 2012 U19 World Cup in Australia, leading the averages with an incredible 19 wickets at just nine runs apiece in the tournament.
Weaknesses: He still has much to learn about the art of bowling, while at his pace he cannot afford to not hit his lines and lengths, especially when facing top-class batsmen.
James Vince (Hampshire)
Strength: When in full flow, Vince is lovely to watch, with former England head coach Duncan Fletcher even likening his batting to that of one-time England skipper Michael Vaughan.
Weaknesses: He can be a bit inconsistent, blowing hot one minute then cold the next.
David Willey (Northants)
Left-arm medium-fast bowler
Strengths: Willey has a bit of a golden arm with the ball and the happy knack of taking wickets, while he can also be an explosive middle-order batsman.
Weaknesses: He just needs to work on his batting technique but should get plenty of opportunity to do so Down Under this winter.