England's Ashes Side: Who We Gonna Pick???

Robbie MatthewsContributor IJune 4, 2008

With the current English Test side in such good form against New Zealand, it is hard to imagine that we will need to bring in any more players to play against Australia.................................. yeah right!

While not taking anything away from the New Zealanders, who are suffering due to the retirement of Stephen Fleming, and the stupid decision to drop Shane Bond from the team, but they are not the biggest challenge in the game, compared to the Aussies.

Although I can take nothing from the English team, with some of the wayward bowling from James Anderson, the unlucky spells of Stuart Broad, the "hit and miss" batting of Ian Bell, and the lack of a good Wicket Keeper Batsman who can consistently perform, then we are unlikely to improve on the 5-0 series defeat from the Ashes down under.

Therefore, who can we call in to improve this lineup? I think that Andrew Strauss and Alistair Cook have done well opening the side, with both scoring some big scores when they have been required. Whilst Cook is slightly out of form, his partner has been in blistering form for England, with a magnificent century in the last Test Match. You would hope that with some county cricket that they could continue and improve on their form. The only other reason may be that there is no one else who has done enough in the opening department that could be picked instead.

Michael Vaughan has also been in good nick at the moment, batting at 3rd. He's got a good average of 61, which shows that he may have finally found his feet batting at number 3. Whether this will hold up to the Ashes series or not, only time will tell.

The middle order gives a very contrasting view as to what is happening in the England squad. Bell, Pieterson and Collingwood have all been in wretched form in this Test Series, with none of them going on to hit big scores. Stuart Broad has got a better average than them, which shows how poor they have been. Ian Bell has had a number of chances this series to hit some runs, but when the pressure is on, he just hasn't performed. This was also apparent during the Ashes down under. When England needed a performer, and the experienced batsman to take control, no one, and this includes Pieterson and Collingwood, were there to help. Pieterson, though considered amazing on debut against South Africa, and more so against Australia in the 05 Ashes, has struggled to make consistently impressive performances. Yes, he has made some, but a player of his talent should surely be making a more consistent contribution to the England runs. Paul Collingwood has admitted he has been in poor form himself, so why do we persist with him? He has admitted it, the coach has admitted, so why play him? Bring in an in form batsman.

Who could replace these three batsman if we wanted to? The England coaches and selectors have always said they do not ignore county performances, so based on that - Mark Ramprakash should be in the side, after consistently good performances and big scores. Another batsman who should may be considered is all rounder Bresnan, who has a batting average of 93, and a bowling average of 25.94, surely he has a good chance of being picked, if he can maintain this form, as a good all rounder has been lacked since Freddie's injury. Freddie himself, whilst his batting had been worse than shocking, his bowling has been amazing, and there is nothing to stop him from being picked as a bowler for some international matches, but there is no need to rush him. Ravi Bopara must also be mentioned, as he has not only impressed in the One Day matches (201* not out), but he has also impressed for Essex in the 4 Day game, with an average of 85, with 3 fifties and 2 centuries, off 7 innings.

Wicket Keepers are the next area, and whilst Tim Ambrose has started well for England, like Matt Prior, his batting has shockingly gone down. He has failed to make any big scores against New Zealand. Matt Prior, who has returned to the county games, has hit a phenominal run of form, with him being the leading batsman in the county rankings at the moment. Maybe he is in line for a recall. Another person that may be looked at would be Frost, who plays for Warwickshire. Although he has only played in 3 matches with 4 innings, he has been not out in 3 of those innings, which gives him an unreal average of 298! He has also proved himself behind the stumps, with 11 catches and 1 stumping. Definately in the frame.

And then to the troubled bowling attack.

Ryan Sidebottom, although being a fairly new player in Test Cricket, has consistently proved himself to be the best bowler in the English line up at the moment, and should retain his place easily, so that's Sidebottom dealt with.

Stuart Broad, whilst young, has produced encouraging spells, but just not taken the wickets. I like Stuart Broad, he has a good heart, and is a good player, but unless he starts taking wickets, then he is not going to hold his place for too long, because you don't want an encouraging spell for a young bowler who has figures of 100-1 against a team like Australia, because that could spell the defeat in the Ashes, as it showed during Harmison's wayward bowling in the Ashes Down Under. If he can prove himself in the third test against New Zealand, then he may save himself from the cut, but he would need to get some wickets in the counties to get himself some form.

James Anderson has had numerous chances in the England line up, and has showed glimpses of his best in the recent series' against New Zealand. However, he has also showed glimpses of his worst. With this hot-cold bowling, is he somone we want to have leading our bowling attack?

Monty Panesar has shown us what he can do on a turning wicket, with his best test figures 6-37 in the Second Test. However, has he consistently taken 4 or 5 wickets in every match? No. But he shouldn't be expected to. But he has taken 9 wickets in the series against New Zealand, and 6 in one innings, so that's 3 wickets in 3 other innings. How can that compare to someone like Shane Warne, who consistently ripped through teams every match. Maybe comparing Monty to Warney is a bit harsh on Monty, but unless he starts taking regular wickets, some of the other bowlers may start to get a look in.

With some problem areas of the Bowling Attack, who else could maybe bolster it? Firstly would be Matthew Hoggard - an excellent bowler for England, rarely puts a foot wrong, and was a key player in the 2005 Ashes. That experience may give him a recall, although he should never have been dropped in the first place.

Steve Harmison is returning to his very best form these days, with 17 wickets so far in the county leagues. He is also bowling tight spells, and giving little away, with an incredible 43 maidens off his 132 overs in all county matches. Maybe he is not quite ready for the International stage again, but surely he cannot be ruled out completely? Simon Jones is also proving to be a breath of fresh air. The reverse-swing-king has been in blistering form since moving from Glamorgan, and has bagged himself 14 wickets at an average of 10.64. Though not quite showing the same brilliance which arguably won England the Ashes in 2005, he is showing that he is far from retirement with these consistent performances.

With the Ashes fast approaching, the England selectors need to take a long hard look at the team, and start to make the big cuts before the Aussies return, as the expectation to perform will be bigger than it has ever been before.