The announcement of the England cricket squad for the winter Ashes series against Australia contained the usual tried and tested performers plus several surprise inclusions. With the selection of Gary Ballance, three Yorkshiremen head a batting line-up which includes Michael Carberry as the back-up opener, but it is the bowling section where most debate is centred, especially with the omission of Graham Onions.
The Durham fast bowler has been instrumental in guiding his team to their third County Championship in six years and was selected for the England squad which defeated Australia in this summer’s fourth test at his home ground Chester-le-Street. Unfortunately, he was not included in the starting eleven which must have create some personal unease for his prospects for being elevated to this current Ashes squad.
A back injury to bowler Tim Bresnan has enforced his withdrawal, and he will be a loss, but Onions team-mate Ben Stokes has been preferred as his replacement given his added ability as an all-rounder. Stokes is the only Durham inclusion and is a quick vote of confidence for a young player who was sent home from the young Lions tour to Australia last year for a breach of discipline.
Perhaps it is the injury record of Onions which the selectors have taken into account after he required surgery to alleviate a back problem which enforced his withdrawal from the 2010 Bangladesh tour, without having played a match. It was to be another two years before he participated in another test match.
If Onions can be deemed unlucky not to be travelling to Australia, then Steven Finn can be considered rather fortunate. Dropped after a mediocre performance in the first test against Australia this summer, Finn has been restored to the squad after a particularly encouraging Ashes tour in 2010-11 when part of a victorious team. At 24 years old there is still time for him to mature further.
Touring alongside the Middlesex fast bowler will be the another surprise selection, Boyd Rankin. The Warwickshire bowler has previously played for Ireland but announced his intention to be considered for England last summer. A decent performance in the recent ODI series against Australia has been sufficient to warrant inclusion in the Ashes squad for the 6ft 8ins bowler, despite not playing at County Championship level since early August.
The squad will fly to Australia in good heart after the 3-0 series win during the summer but they will need to mindful of a home team keen on revenge after a particular hurtful summer by their standards.