• England take on the West Indies in their series opener at Lord's on Wednesday
  • Ben Stokes is already focused on the Ashes in 2025 - but needs to win now too
  • Jimmy Anderson, Chris Woakes and Gus Atkinson lead England's bowling attack 

Ben Stokes spoke about preparing for an Ashes series 16 months away on Tuesday, and the make-up of England’s attack highlights that you need to strike a balance when selecting with long-term goals in mind. There must be focus on the present, too.

Stokes’s England team are at the bottom of the World Test Championship, and need to respect the six Tests against West Indies and Sri Lanka this summer.

England are very good at home, historically, and part of that balance is moving on from Jimmy Anderson after this game.

Anticipating Australian conditions with a Kookaburra ball, they want to get more pace into the attack and that’s why you’ve got Gus Atkinson coming in today, Mark Wood probably coming back for the third Test and Jofra Archer possibly returning once he has got through this summer of exclusively white-ball cricket.

But you need to win the game in front of you and that’s why Chris Woakes — with a record in England as good as anyone’s — is in. People may ask, ‘If you’re moving away from Anderson, why have you selected Woakes?’

True, you wouldn’t take Woakes to Australia next year, but in any attack, you need experience. Losing Stuart Broad and Anderson within half a dozen Tests of each other leaves a massive hole to fill on that front and Woakes provides you with the added bonus of extra batting depth. He has an excellent record with bat and ball at Lord’s.

Atkinson is slippery and, like Archer, bowls through his action a little bit and gets in fairly tight to the stumps on delivery. He is in the side to bowl fast.

But it’s not all about pace, pace, pace because if you spray the ball, you’ll go around the park, both here and Down Under.

It’s a massive bonus that Stokes is bowling again, because it enables England to play Shoaib Bashir, who gives you height and bounce. 

A lot has been made of Bashir’s high release points, but bowling finger spin in Australia, you need to generate bounce by getting over-spin on the ball. Over-spin will also make the ball drop — another weapon in all conditions.

While there will be areas for England’s attack to work on during this series, they should remember one thing. 

Anderson is playing his 188th and final Test because, rather than planning for matches in the distance, he’s been a master of focusing on winning the one he’s in.

Read more

2024-07-09T22:00:21Z dg43tfdfdgfd