England squad announced
The England board of selectors have picked their squad for the 1st Ashes Test starting this Wednesday.
Perhaps unsurprisingly there is no place for Steve Harmison despite him performing well in the recent warm up match against Australia, his Durham team-mate Graham Onions has however kept his place in the squad.
Experienced players in the shape of Ian Bell and Monty Panesar have earned recalls after missing the two-match series against the West Indies, whether or not both players will actually be in the starting XI is another matter.
Talk before the squad was announced was that two spinners (Panesar and Swann) might be in operation, but Bell's inclusion in the squad, combined with Panesar's less than spectacular form, might suggest a longer batting line-up as opposed to a dual spinning attack.
Personally I believe that just one spinner will be involved with Panesar left on the sidelines, probably sat next to Onions, even though the fast-bowler has been on excellent form so far this season and took plenty of wickets in the recent series against the Windies.
Experience counts for a lot in this game and Bell certainly has that. Over 46 Tests the Warwickshire star has a healthy average of 40.59 and adds to a batting line-up that should be able to post competitive totals for the Aussies to chase. Bell does however have a pretty poor record against Ricky Ponting's team - only averaging 25.10 and he is yet to reach a century.
The top five for England is pretty much a given; captain Strauss and Cook will open, Bopara looks to have made the number three slot his own with some fantastic knocks of late, Pietersen will come in at number four with Collingwood at number five.
Then here comes the selectors decision, does Bell come in and add more runs at number six? Or is Prior six, Flintoff seven then Panesar involved with the three bowlers who are set in stone - Anderson, Broad and Swann?
It's a tough choice as to who will be left out, we won't have long to wait though as the hotly anticipated action gets underway on Wednesday at 11:00. It's sure to be a fantastic series.
Below is the squad in full:
|Name||Age||County||Batting style||Bowling style||Tests|
|Andrew Strauss (capt)||29||Middlesex||Left-handed||Left-arm medium||62|
|James Anderson||26||Lancashire||Left-handed||Right-arm fast-medium||37|
|Ian Bell||27||Warwickshire||Right-handed||Right-arm medium||46|
|Ravi Bopara||24||Essex||Right-handed||Right-arm medium||6|
|Stuart Broad||23||Nottinghamshire||Left-handed||Right-arm fast-medium||17|
|Paul Collingwood||33||Durham||Right-handed||Right-arm medium||48|
|Alastair Cook||24||Essex||Left-handed||Right-arm off-break||43|
|Andrew Flintoff||31||Lancashire||Right-handed||Right-arm fast||75|
|Graham Onions||26||Durham||Right-handed||Right-arm medium-fast||2|
|Monty Panesar||27||Northamptonshire||Left-handed||Slow left-arm orthodox||38|
|Kevin Pietersen||29||Hampshire||Right-handed||Right-arm off-break||52|
|Graeme Swann||30||Nottinghamshire||Right-handed||Right-arm off-break||7|