3 in-form outsiders for an English Ashes-squad berth


The England squad, or at least those chosen for a “pre-Ashes training camp”, finally got to meet their new coach on the trip to Spain. Trevor Bayliss took official charge of proceedings, meeting Alastair Cook, and the 13 other players selected on the sojourn, for the first time.

It is expected that 11 of the men in Almeria will take to the field for the first Test at Cardiff, considering the new head coach had a hand in picking them. But is there still time for an outsider or two to force their way into the reckoning?

Gary Ballance is certainly one man under immediate threat of losing his place and we made the case for Eoin Morgan to replace him in the side last week.

However, all it takes is a run of poor games for any of the settled squad members and changes could be made. On that basis, it certainly pays to be in form at the right time.

Here are three county players who have come good when it matters:

Jonny Bairstow – Yorkshire

If Morgan’s lack of recent red-ball cricket ultimately counts him out of the reckoning, then Bairstow would be the beneficiary.

The keeper-batsman is in supreme form in all formats having helped the ODI side seal a thrilling series win over New Zealand while deputising for the injured Jos Buttler. Beyond that unbeaten 83, the 25-year-old has just completed his highest first-class score, with 219 not out against Durham.

Chris Rushworth – Durham

Mark Wood’s recent Test debut and Mark Footitt’s surprise inclusion in the Spanish excursion shows that beyond Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad, there is a chance for a third seamer to nail down his place.

Should Wood fail to take the chance, like Steven Finn, Liam Plunkett and Chris Jordan before him, then Rushworth could rival Footitt to step in.

The 28-year-old has taken 25 Championship wickets in his last five games and has the second-most scalps in Division One this season with 47.

Zafar Ansari – Surrey

There is a lot of chat surrounding Moeen Ali and his readiness to spin England to an Ashes victory, priced at 3/1.

A lack of overs at Worcestershire means there is a very real chance that Adil Rashid could get a go at some point in the series, although Ansari is fast pushing his case for international inclusion.

As an opening bat that bowls slow left arm for Surrey, the Cambridge graduate is certainly in the Ali mould. He recently took 6-30 to help his county claim victory over Gloucestershire inside three days.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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Matt Wiggins

No idyllic sound comes close to leather on willow for Matt, whose previous experience includes stints with Spin Magazine and Surrey County Cricket Club. It's not just cricket that interests him though, with football, golf, tennis and any American sport not played on ice all high on his list of favourites.