Wait nearly over for England hopefuls eyeing Ashes spot

THE wait will finally be over for England’s Ashes hopefuls this afternoon when the 16-man squad for the winter tour of Australia is announced.

With English cricket enjoying its most successful summer in many years, it’s fair to say that few changes are expected from the side which blitzed Pakistan 3-1 this summer.

But with at least two of the 16 spots up for grabs, it still leaves a number of players on tenterhooks ahead of the 2.30pm announcement.

It is widely expected England will take seven specialist batsmen with fit-again Ian Bell tipped to take his place in the squad alongside captain Andrew Strauss, Alastair Cook, Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen, Paul Collingwood and Eoin Morgan.

Graeme Swann is a dead cert to go as No1 spinner, while James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Steven Finn are nailed on to claim three of the four seamer slots.

That leaves Yorkshire pair Ajmal Shahzad and Tim Bresnan to vie with Surrey’s Chris Tremlett for the fourth remaining spot.

The second spinner’s place is also up for grabs with James Tredwell favourite, but the experienced Monty Panesar or Yorkshire’s Adil Rashid may also be considered. Panesar is back in contention after taking more than 50 wickets for new county Sussex this season.

Coach Andy Flower also has the presence of a touring England Performance Programme group to fall back on if need be – safe in the knowledge that an emergency replacement is only a short trip away.