Ashes 2017: England sending one of 'worst ever batting line-ups' to Australia

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Ashes 2017: 'England's batting line-up is underwhelming'
The Ashes
Venue: Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, Melbourne, Sydney Dates: 23 November - 7 January
Coverage: Ball-by-ball Test Match Special commentary on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra, Radio 4 LW, online, tablets, mobiles and BBC Sport app. Live text commentary on the BBC Sport website

England are sending one of their "worst ever batting line-ups" to Australia and will lose the Ashes series 5-0, says veteran broadcaster Jim Maxwell.

The English 16-man squad was named on Wednesday, with vice-captain Ben Stokes included despite his arrest on Monday.

Yorkshire's Gary Ballance and Hampshire batsman James Vince were recalled.

Australian Maxwell, 67, said England will need "an almighty performance, with Stokes brilliantly throwing his bat, to keep the side together".

"I grew up watching Colin Cowdrey, Ted Dexter and Geoff Boycott," he added.

"They were very good players. Joe Root's a good player, but there aren't many others. Alastair Cook is probably past his best against high quality pace bowling - and that's exactly what England will have to face from Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc.

"I think it's one of the poorest English batting line-ups I have ever seen to come to Australia. The result of the series? Sorry folks: Australia 5-0 England."

England, who were whitewashed 5-0 on their last tour of Australia, are looking to defend the Ashes which they regained on home soil in 2015.

The series begins in Brisbane on 23 November.

England squad for Ashes tour of Australia

England squad

Joe Root (capt, Yorkshire), Moeen Ali (Worcestershire), James Anderson (Lancashire), Jonny Bairstow (wk, Yorkshire), Jake Ball (Nottinghamshire), Gary Ballance (Yorkshire), Stuart Broad (Nottinghamshire), Alastair Cook (Essex), Mason Crane (Hampshire), Ben Foakes (wk, Surrey), Dawid Malan (Middlesex), Craig Overton (Somerset), Ben Stokes (Durham), Mark Stoneman (Surrey), James Vince (Hampshire), Chris Woakes (Warwickshire).

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England in Australia 2017-18 - Ashes Tests
23-27 November - 1st Test, Brisbane (00:00 GMT)
2-6 December - 2nd Test, Adelaide (d/n) (04:00 GMT)
14-18 December - 3rd Test, Perth (Waca) (02:30 GMT)
26-30 December - 4th Test, Melbourne (23:30 GMT, 25-29 Dec)
4-8 January - 5th Test, Sydney (23:30 GMT, 3-7 Jan)

How did they find out?

Ben Foakes and his Surrey team-mate Mark Stoneman were both on their way to watch Manchester City in the Champions League on Tuesday when they learned of their inclusion.

Stoneman had to cut short a call to his wife to check his voicemail en route to the Etihad Stadium.

"It was from [national team selector] James Whitaker," he said. "I gave him a call back once I got off the tram."

He added: "It's just amazing really. I still managed to enjoy the [City] game, got the phone calls in, and then settled into my seat to watch it."

Uncapped Somerset seamer Craig Overton, 23, was preferred to Mark Wood, who remains troubled by an ankle injury, while Ballance was restored after suffering a broken finger in the second Test defeat by South Africa in July.

He is set to battle with Vince and Middlesex's Dawid Malan for two spots in the middle order.

Uncapped Hampshire leg-spinner Mason Crane provides back-up for first-choice spinner Moeen Ali, while Foakes, also uncapped, is Jonny Bairstow's deputy as wicketkeeper.

With Wood and Middlesex's Toby Roland-Jones (stress fracture of the back) missing, Overton and Nottinghamshire's Jake Ball make up the fast bowlers with regulars James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Chris Woakes.

Why they are going

National selector James Whitaker, speaking to BBC Sport.

On Gary Ballance: "He has the form and ability to challenge in the middle order and put pressure on the opposition. He's got a very good back-foot game."

On James Vince: "James will admit he's left some runs out there in Test cricket over the last couple of years. We've always seen someone with natural ability. We felt his game in Australia might be more suited to the conditions."

On Craig Overton: "He's led the Somerset attack really well, he's a very clever bowler. He can also bat and he's a good fielder."

On Mark Wood, who is back in action after a foot injury: "He will be with the Lions and build up some stamina and fitness. If he shows the ability to stay fit, there's a possibility that - if needed - he's an option to be at the Ashes."

'Without Stokes, England don't have a chance'

All-rounder Stokes, 26, was held on suspicion of causing actual bodily harm outside a nightclub in Bristol in the early hours of Monday morning. He suffered a minor finger fracture on his right hand but is expected to be fit for the tour.

He was detained overnight after the team's victory in the third one-day international against West Indies and was not be available for the fourth ODI on Wednesday.

Former England captain Michael Vaughan, speaking to BBC Radio 5 live

Ben Stokes has got to realise that he's not Ben Stokes from Cockermouth who can go in any bar he wants. He's Ben Stokes, the global superstar. I'm sure this will be the turning point and I'm sure this will hit him hard.

I would be amazed if Stokes is ready for the start of the tour, because he has got a crack in his hand. Without Stokes, I wouldn't give England a chance. But whatever happens, straight away the wheels in motion are a little bit disjointed.

Clearly Australia have huge respect for Joe Root, Stuart Broad and James Anderson, but the one player they fear is Stokes. They know he is the engine; in the field, with the ball in his hand, and with the bat. He was the only player who stood up last time down under.

Former England captain David Gower on BBC Radio 4's Today programme

Stokes would have been written on that list within milliseconds as the pivotal man in that team.

When you've got a Ben Stokes who can bat, bowl, take brilliant catches, who is that sort of inspirational figure pretty much whatever he does on the field, you want him there at all times.

We know he's got the sort of character on the field that in effect leads the team. I had the same sort of experience and memories from Ian Botham 30 years ago.

Andrew Strauss was right that as it stands then they have no choice to pick the team which they would have done three or four days ago anyway.

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Stokes needs the right support - Strauss

'One of the weakest squads I've seen'

BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew on BBC Radio 5 live

This is one of the weakest squads I've seen. The dilemma facing the selectors has been known for months and the scale of the top-order batting problem is laid bare.

James Vince returns after an unspectacular summer in county cricket and a run of seven Tests last year that produced an average of 19. He's expected to bat at three.

Gary Ballance is averaging 19 from his last 12 Tests. He's pressing Dawid Malan - averaging 23 from five Tests for number five.

The pressure on Alastair Cook and Joe Root in this series will be immense, and that's without taking the current uncertainty created by Ben Stokes' predicament into account.

Craig Overton was preferred to Liam Plunkett's genuine pace and Mason Crane is a gamble. A young wrist-spinner as back-up, really?

Read more from Jonathan here.

How tough will England's task be?

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