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Page last updated at 21:51 GMT, Thursday, 23 September 2010 22:51 UK

Jonathan Agnew column: England's Ashes squad

Jonathan Agnew
By Jonathan Agnew
BBC cricket correspondent

Tim Bresnan
The only selection I would query is Tim Bresnan - I'm not convinced he's good enough at this level

There were no real surprises in England's 16-man Ashes squad but there didn't need to be - the tourists are going down under at pretty much full strength and I'm very optimistic they'll emerge triumphant.

The only places up for debate were fairly peripheral ones - a quick bowler here, a reserve wicketkeeper there - but those have now been sorted and we're set fair for what should be an enthralling series.

While headline news came in the form of Monty Panesar's return after more than a year in the international wilderness, and Chris Tremlett's inclusion three years after his last Test, neither are likely to feature in the first-choice line-up.

That will probably comprise six batsmen - Andrew Strauss, Alastair Cook, Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen, Paul Collingwood and either Ian Bell or Eoin Morgan - wicketkeeper Matt Prior, lone spinner Graeme Swann and three seamers - James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Steven Finn.

I've had a lot of reports on Monty and they vary a bit. Some people say he's getting back to where he was when he was bowling well, others say he's still some way short of that.

The selectors have taken a bit of a chance there, but Adil Rashid needs a rest and can't be used in a four-man attack while James Tredwell wouldn't have been the most adventurous pick.

Bearing in mind the second spinner will probably only play if Swann is injured - meaning he would need to walk straight in and do a job - you have to choose the man most likely to win you a game, and they think that man is Monty.

Surrey seamer Tremlett possesses a lot of talent but there has clearly been an issue with him, ie people have thought he's too soft.


I saw him bowl with a bit of fire and pace against India in 2007, and if he has pulled his socks up at Surrey - if he's now taking responsibility, steaming in as a tall, quick and threatening paceman - then I think he'll bowl very well in Australia.

The only selection I would query is that of Tim Bresnan - I think he's fortunate to be on that plane. He had a poor one-day series against Pakistan and, while I know this is Test cricket we're talking about, I'm not convinced he's good enough at this level.

He looks like a nice and solid county pro but I don't see him taking 5-60 in a Test match. What appears to have won him a spot is his ability with the bat - he can do a job at number seven and also provide a seam option in a five-man attack.

I would have gone for Ajmal Shahzad. Three tall, lean, threatening bowlers looks a little bit top heavy and they might have done with the Yorkshire quick, who can run in, nip it around a bit and provide some reverse swing.

Then again, Shahzad's going to be out in Australia with the 16-man England performance programme squad so he could be drafted in at any time.

National selector Geoff Miller explains Ashes squad choices

Talking of which, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) must be spending an absolute fortune in effectively taking a second string away with them.

The whole business of having a performance squad over with you is unprecedented. The ECB would say the money being spent shows their commitment and it's true - England are obviously absolutely determined to go over there and win the Ashes.

It means England basically have a squad of 32, with options, alternatives and injury cover ready to be called in at a moment's notice. They're actually on site during the Brisbane and Perth Tests. Remarkable!

On the batting side, it looks like Morgan will miss out to Bell initially, but the nice thing is that unlike on the ill-fated 2006-07 tour, England have proper preparation time and there is a chance for players to stake a claim.

He hit a brilliant century in the final one-dayer against Pakistan and, again, that's not a Test match but it is a hundred for England and it will be noted by the selectors.

They want him to bat like that in a Test match, they want him to bring flair and to score runs at a good rate, they don't want him to go out there and block it. So the fact that he's scored another ton is going to count quite strongly in his favour.

Chris Tremlett
Tremlett has earned a recall after a three-year exile from the Test team

All eyes will be on Pietersen after he was dropped from the one-day side and he must go out to South Africa - where he has agreed a deal with Kwa-Zulu Natal Dolphins for October - and work his socks off.

He wasn't dropped simply for a lack of runs; it was to give him a kick in the pants and to say, 'come on, you need preparation, you need hard work, you need county cricket, you can't just rock up and play Test cricket'.

With that and the warm-up matches, Kevin has an opportunity to play himself into form. If Pietersen doesn't have a good tour then alarm bells will start to ring.

He is turned on by the big occasion and if it doesn't work for him on this tour then there is, I would suggest, some sort of technical problem or an aspect of his game that really does need looking at. I think he'll be fine.

Another slight worry is that Anderson is the only England seamer who has played a Test in Australia, so inexperience under pressure could be an issue.

I fear that if Australia turn the screw on a long, hot and hard day, Broad may throw his toys out of the cot. He has a track record of losing his cool and that's something England must be aware of.

Against Pakistan, England were patient and that's a good sign. Captain Strauss will deploy a lot of fields aiming to bowl maidens and really trying to tighten the grip. That means staying cool, knuckling down when there aren't any wickets falling, coping with the red hot conditions and not losing your temper or hurling a ball at a batsman.

Swann thrilled by 'dream' Ashes tour

I think Finn will be OK. Although he is very young and hasn't really been challenged yet, from what I've seen of him so far he is very mature and looks the sort of fellow who does just get on and bowl.

Anderson will want the ball to swing - if it doesn't he will have to bowl very accurately. The pitches will be flat and the Kookaburra ball won't really move for them, so the only way they're going to succeed is through hard work.

But England will be ready. With three first-class warm-up matches, they couldn't ask for better preparation, it's perfect.

In 2006 they made lots of loud noises about being the best-prepared team but that was absolute rubbish, they were terribly prepared and those of us out there knew it. This time it's going to be a proper tour with proper preparation and proper competition for places. It feels really good.

And I think Australia are vulnerable. Their bowling attack is shaky and, although Ricky Ponting remains a very fine player, the rest of their batting line-up is not what it used to be.

Unlike in the past, I don't see any imposing, intimidating opponents who England will fear. They're not there anymore. Matthew Hayden, Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne have all gone. They've got willing tryers but I don't see any match winners in their attack.

Andrew Strauss and Andy Flower
Strauss and Flower are two quite different people but work extremely well together

Mitchell Johnson has a decent record but he hasn't bowled well against England. They still don't know if wicketkeeper Brad Haddin's going to be fit or not and that is important because he can do some serious damage lower down the order.

I can't see Australia causing England any major headaches. They can play well and England might not play as they should - in which case Australia will win - but before a ball is bowled they need to win an extra Test to reclaim the urn. I would rather go into the Ashes in England's position.

The tourists are now a very tight unit and that starts with the coach-captain relationship between Andy Flower and Strauss. Rather like Duncan Fletcher and Michael Vaughan, they're two quite different people but work extremely well together.

The rest of the squad is more settled than in 2006 but, that said, what is good this time is that something like Pietersen being dropped from the one-day side sends a message out that it's not a club.

You can't be too cosy, you should never feel you're an automatic selection and it has to feel special to play for England. That was the message delivered to Pietersen but it will be felt throughout the squad - if they can drop KP they can drop me.

After a summer poisoned by allegations of fixing, this series could not have come at a better time for the sport. Now it is time for some good, proper, traditional, hard-fought and very competitive cricket. I'm taking England to win 3-1.

Jonathan Agnew was speaking to BBC Sport's David Ornstein

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see also
Panesar & Tremlett in Ashes squad
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Finn can cope with Ashes sledging
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Pietersen to play in South Africa
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Surgery rules Onions out of Ashes
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Victorious England regain Ashes
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Aussies complete Ashes whitewash
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England in Australia 2010-11
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