Ballance, Crane in? Foakes or Buttler? England's Ashes selection dilemmas

Updated: 

Ben Stokes' arrest overshadowed speculation over who will make the cut for the Ashes as the England selectors met to finalise the squad on Tuesday.

Director of cricket Andrew Strauss addressed the media at The Oval a day before the touring party to travel to Australia will be announced, revealing that Stokes was arrested following an incident in Bristol in the early hours of Monday morning.

Alex Hales, considered to have an outside chance of a Test recall on Wednesday, was with Stokes on Sunday night and returned to Bristol in order to help police with their enquiries.

Strauss said the selectors were instructed to pick the squad on form and fitness as per usual, which is just as well given they already had enough on their plates.

 

It remains to be seen if Stokes, who was held by police overnight before being released under investigation without charge, will retain his role as vice-captain and there is sure to be plenty questions asked about the all-rounder when the squad is named.

Aside from such an unwelcome turn of events, here are the main selection dilemmas the panel of Trevor Bayliss, James Whitaker, Mike Newell and Angus Fraser were faced with.

 

 

THE BATTERS

Mark Stoneman will surely make the cut, even if he could have benefited from the experience of facing South Africa in Tests at The Oval and Old Trafford.

Tom Westley injured his thumb for Essex on Monday and, although under pressure, that should not prevent his inclusion. Dawid Malan has also just about done enough to command a place on the plane.

 

And yet it is thought England could still turn back to Gary Ballance and James Vince, despite both underwhelming somewhat previously.

Ballance can at least call on the support of Yorkshire team-mate and Test captain Joe Root, while Vince may not pay the price for his failure to impress during a run in the team last year.

Hales, regardless of the Stokes incident, looks like he will miss out, alongside 20-year-old Haseeb Hameed, who struggled in the Lions side earlier this year.

 

 

THE BOWLERS

The bowling situation is generally more settled, despite Toby Roland-Jones' back injury last week which will unfortunately prevent his participation.

James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Moeen Ali and Chris Woakes are all shoe-ins, but there are potentially still decisions to be made.

Mason Crane is popular in the England camp - despite seeing limited action for Hampshire - and he has leapfrogged Adil Rashid in the queue. Liam Dawson is in the mix, too; could the selectors be tempted to pick a second spinner alongside Moeen?

 

THE WICKET-KEEPERS

Jonny Bairstow's place is, of course, assured, but there is a battle to be the second wicket-keeper, joining the 28-year-old in Australia and potentially freeing him to take the bat.

And, at this late stage, it looks like Ben Foakes will edge out Jos Buttler for that place.