Don Topley: Assessing the options for England’s Ashes attack

Stuart Broad is England's top bowler, according to Don Topley. Picture: PA SPORT

Stuart Broad is England's top bowler, according to Don Topley. Picture: PA SPORT - Credit: PA Wire/Press Association Images

Cricket columnist Don Topley looks at the bowling options on offer to England ahead of the Ashes series in Australia this winter.

I am very nervous about which England side will line up on the morning of November 21 at the famous Gabba, Brisbane. The first Ashes Test Down Under is only 5 months away and will signal the start of another great battle in cricket.

A real pressing concern for me is to guess our bowling line up for that important day. Another arduous year in international cricket sees incredible demands being made of Team England’s fast bowlers. They have been – and will be – busy with the following:

- Five Test series and White Ball ODI & T20 Series in India

- Three match Test series and White Ball Series in Bangladesh

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That adds up to nearly 140 days of international match-day cricket in just over a year and that’s without adding in travel days (both at home and abroad), formal cricket practice days, regular individual time allocated to the gym for strength and conditioning and, lastly – and importantly – rest and recuperation for our fast men!

Oh yes, I didn’t include them playing for their own counties in our domestic summer.

I know those with a more mundane job will not be sympathetic to these highly paid professional cricketers but the schedule for fast bowlers is simply unrelenting and demanding. Here’s my thoughts on the potential bowlers:

James Anderson, 35, Lancashire.

The ageing bowler struggled in India with ‘back-to-back’ Tests. Expect him not to play in every Test in Australia. Remains a top bowler when there is movement, but will find little except in Adelaide.

Stuart Broad, 31, Nottinghamshire.

For me, England’s number one bowler, but he has fat pad issues in his feet. He can lead the bowling attack in Australia.

Chris Woakes, 28, Warwickshire

Would be inked in but currently out with side-strain. Has a degenerative knee but would he always play if fit and available? Fingers crossed.

Ben Stokes, 26, Durham

All-rounder with huge role to play. Has finger injuries in bowling hand which affects his red ball bowling. Never as dynamic with the newer ball but better suited to reverse swing later in an innings - all down to his mangled finger.

Mark Wood, 27, Durham

Dynamic and an impact bowler. Can generate good pace and should/will be put in cotton wool. Has endured 3 serious ankle operations and spent 18 months out of the game recently. No guarantee where he may be in November 2017 but fingers crossed.

Liam Plunkett, 32, Yorkshire

Has become a stalwart and regular in white ball cricket but expect him to be on the plane for The Ashes Tests.

Jake Ball, 26, Nottinghamshire

Learning and has been introduced to all formats of the game. Will be involved if he can stay fit.

Steve Finn, 28, Middlesex

Should now be part of a four-pronged bowling attack, but hasn’t fulfilled potential - has never been the same since his 2011 Ashes campaign

Chris Jordan, 28, Sussex

Has played Test cricket, but now pigeon-holed as a white ball bowler.

David Willey, 27, Yorkshire

Wants to play Test cricket and has been a regular in white ball. Does not have great pace but offers something different being left arm.

Reece Topley, 23, Hampshire

Working his way back from 14 months out of the game, not strong enough to play back-to-back Test Cricket. Still young.

Jamie Overton, 23, Somerset

Has pace, yet untried at the very top level. Sustained some stress fractures of the back over recent years but young.

Craig Overton, 23, Somerset

Not as quick as his twin brother but probably a better bowler – may find him on the plane as a spare squad player.

Toby Roland Jones, 29, Middlesex

Honest reliable ‘Angus Fraser’ type bowler, who won’t let anyone down. Occasional hip issues. Could be on the plane

Tom Curran, 22, Surrey

Confident bowler with tricks but not quick enough for Test Cricket. May stay involved in white ball.

Mark Footitt, 31, Surrey

Quick enough but underwhelming. Probably had his time. Poor man’s Mitchell Johnson.

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