After uncertainty surrounding whether the Ashes tour to Australia would go ahead, England head coach Chris Silverwood is confident that the squad he named yesterday can cause an upset on the Baggy Greens’ soil.
Barring players who are unavailable through injury and choice, Silverwood has picked the best available squad for the tour, which will see England compete with Australia over five Test matches.
“I think we will be very competitive out there,” Silverwood said. “We have, over the last five, six, seven months, played against the top two teams in the world [New Zealand and India] and we have learned a hell of a lot from them.
“We look at them and what they do and how they go about their business, they have a strong belief that ‘we’re going to do something very special’. So we’re learning from them.”
Some of the Ashes squad are currently in the Middle East preparing for the Twenty20 World Cup, which begins on Sunday, and will go on to travel to Australia thereafter.
Silverwood’s selection process has had to take account of injuries to bowlers such as Jofra Archer, Ben Stokes’s hiatus, and Moeen Ali’s recent Test retirement.
“Obviously you talk about many people when you go through a role like this, every possible wildcard,” Silverwood continued. “But it’s pretty straightforward. I think we’ve got a nice blend between youth and experience.”
Concern over whether the tour would even go ahead has been looming over selection, with key England players such as Jos Buttler saying they wouldn’t be available for the Ashes tour if families were not able to accompany the team.
Australia have had among the tightest Covid-19 lockdown restrictions in the world, and some of the England squad faced the prospect of being away from their family for over four months when Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said there would be no special treatment for the touring side.
Silverwood said: “Having lived through so much bubble time – and bear in mind we have spent more time in biosecurity environments than any other team – I understand how hard that is for the players to perform.
“To have all of the players buy into what we have now and to get them in a state of mind where we can go out there and compete, I’m just grateful we’re at that point now.”
England are massive underdogs this year, having struggled on Australian soil in the past, including a 4-0 series loss in the 2017-18 Ashes, and laboured in large parts against India and New Zealand this summer.
Their Ashes opposition come December will see familiar faces like Steve Smith and Mitchell Starc, who have dismantled England in previous series with bat and ball, among the squad.
“There’s no hiding from the fact that Australia has got a high-class bowling attack, they’ve had that for a while. We need to accept that and embrace it,” Silverwood said.
“Joe’s [Root] stats speak for himself, we know he’s class, but the rest of them there’s no hiding from it, we need to score runs.
“At some point we do need people to put their hands up, there’s no point hiding away from that fact. We will give the guys all the confidence we can give them to make sure they perform out there and I promise you they are working very hard to make sure that they are successful.”
England’s five-match Ashes series is due to begin on 8 December in Brisbane before further Tests in Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Perth.