Wednesday, 1 December 2021

England Ashes spots up for grabs: Ian Botham

Ian Botham

SYDNEY: Test legend Sir Ian Botham says there are “two or three” spots up for grabs in England’s Test squad for this summer’s Magellan Ashes.

England’s Test outfit will head to Australia full of confidence after beating South Africa 3-1 and West Indies 2-1 at home this season, but there remains serious questions over a number of positions, particularly in the batting order.

“Australia is not the place to wander down and learn quickly – you don’t, you’ve really got to fight it out down there,” Botham told Sky Sports.

“Batting-wise I think they will stay with the more experienced players and maybe the same with the bowlers, with possibly a couple of young players.

“I feel (Mark) Stoneman will go – he has been around a while, he is organised and he knows his own game – while (Tom) Westley has done himself no harm after playing more positively.

“There are two or three places up for grabs and it will be interesting to see which way the selectors go.”

Sixteen players were used by England this northern summer but the spotlight has been on the misfiring No.2, 3 and 5 positions in the XI.

Durham’s Keaton Jennings started the season as Alastair Cook’s opening partner but after four Tests against the Proteas produced just 127 runs at 15.87 he was replaced by Surrey left-hander Stoneman.

Stoneman passed 50 just once in his five innings against the Windies but finished with an unbeaten 40 at Lord’s to guide England to a series win.

At the other end on 44 not out was Westley, the Essex first-drop who played Tests after the recalled Gary Ballance broke his finger in the heavy loss to South Africa at Trent Bridge.

Ballance might have been dropped had he not been ruled out with injury having scored just 85 runs in four innings. Westley, who started with 59 in his first Test, failed to capitalise on the opportunity presented by Ballance’s misfortune, averaging 24.12 in nine innings with just that one half-century.

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