Is it too early to start worrying about the Ashes?
It’s less than 12 months away and England have too many problems to solve in such a short time.
Problems that winter tours to Sri Lanka and West Indies won’t cure and don’t look for solace in warm-up Tests before the main event next summer.
England play just one 2019 home Test before the Ashes and that’s against a hopelessly outmatched Ireland at Lord’s.
It might last three days if Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad don’t play, but if I was a county batsman I’d want to be there for that game making enough runs to make myself undroppable. Keaton Jennings might even get 50 against Ireland.
As expected Jennings will tour Sri Lanka despite an average under 20 in the last series against India. He might be the only England player happy to see Alastair Cook retire. His batting average was lower than rabbit Adil Rashid.
England are probably scouring South Africa’s youth squads right now for talent. They might as well because the County Championship is unlikely to throw up many answers.
Bowler-friendly wickets have produced a torrent of low scores unless you’re lucky to play half your games at the Oval. English-qualified players have regularly shown themselves up against spin and seam.
Next summer England need to ignore averages, take a punt and hope they stumble on another Sam Curran. They need two new openers and a number three batsman for the Ashes.
England won’t be helped by English counties who will no doubt try to sign Australian players for the early part of next summer enabling them to acclimatise ahead of the Ashes. These same counties will expect a share of the Ashes receipts obviously.
The World One-Day Cup takes place between the Irish Test and the Ashes which at least will enable Anderson and Broad to have a rest. Test captain Joe Root could be among those to be burned out mentally and physically, along with Johnny Bairstow and Jos Buttler. They will be key men when England are 30-3 in the first innings of every Ashes Test.
I know what England victory I’d rather be celebrating if the choice was the World Cup or the Ashes. Wiping the smirk from the faces of Steve Smith and David Warner trumps all other cricket wishes. I suppose doing it twice over the summer would be perfect, but unlikely as one-day skipper Eoin Morgan is bound to suffer a blow-up at some stage in the tournament.
I did hope England would do what had been suggested and rest their key men this winter.
Anderson and Broad don’t need asking, they need telling they are missing at least one of the winter tours. I’d also ensure Root doesn’t play in any of the one-day games.
Stokes receiving an England ban for bringing cricket into disrepute would also work for me. He deserves one anyway. Let’s get him fully fit and fired up for the Aussies when his aggression will be less controversial.