What next for England’s Test team after Ashes series that had everything?


Stuart Broad and Moeen Ali bow out from Test cricket but will there be further changes to ageing bowling attack? Ben Stokes’ red-ball side not back in action until five-match series in India in January, by which time the captain hopes to have his knee problem resolved

What next for England's Test team after Ashes series that had everything?

After an intoxicating seven weeks, we now have to wait almost six months for the next legal high that is England Test cricket.

Not until January 25, in India as a five-match series series begins, are Ben Stokes’ red-ball revolutionaries back in action.

It will feel like ages after an Ashes for the ages. An Ashes that had everything – except for a winner.

It was a series of Bazball, Bodyline and Stuart Broad’s bail tricks, 600th Test wicket and fairytale farewell. Of Australia’s defensive fields and England’s uber-aggressive ones. Of the captains – Ben Stokes and Pat Cummins – making key contributions. Of brutal and occasionally brainless batting from England. Of diligent and arguably at times dull batting from Australia.

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What next for England's Test team after Ashes series that had everything?

A series of sledging, that stumping, spirit of cricket debates and, allegedly, a haircut that was not paid for. Of the usually mild-mannered members of the MCC going all WWE and clashing with visiting players in the Lord’s Long Room.

A series where Moeen Ali came out of retirement, Broad confirmed his retirement and James Anderson said he had “no interest” in retirement. A series of Chris Woakes’ wizardry, Mark Wood’s velocity, Joe Root’s audacity and something we never thought we would say: Zak Crawley’s consistency.

From the moment Crawley crunched the first ball of the series to the cover boundary through to Broad nicking off Alex Carey with the final delivery – his final delivery – we were captivated.

The Ashes began with a four and a roar and ended with a roar and a draw. Seven weeks to savour. Seven weeks England would have savoured even more had rain not ended their hopes of becoming only the second side in history to win the urn from 2-0 down.

What next for England's Test team after Ashes series that had everything?

Changing of the guard in ageing bowling attack?

England’s mission to save Test cricket will continue early next year but will do so without Broad and Moeen.

The break-up of this side has begun. More players could follow, perhaps not immediately but eventually. Eight members of England’s Oval XI were north of 30. Anderson is north of 40.

Anderson has remained steadfast that he is going nowhere. He still feels he is good enough to be a Test bowler. Now he just needs the selectors to agree. England’s all-time record wicket-taker had a miserly economy rate in the Ashes (2.77 runs an over) but also a miserly wicket return (five at an average of 85.40). Sky Sports’ Mark Butcher said he looked like he was “pushing a rock up a hill”.

Woakes is 34 and has never really done it away from home, Wood is 33 and always appears to be carrying some kind of niggle. A changing of the guard in the bowling attack is coming at some stage.

What next for England's Test team after Ashes series that had everything?

England will be hoping Ollie Robinson – who may now become chief Aussie baiter following Broad’s ride into the sunset – can become the long-time pillar of the attack; that Josh Tongue and Matthew Potts can continue their development; and that maybe, just maybe, they get to witness Jofra Archer in Test whites again.

We hear that Archer is “on course” to be fit for the 50-over World Cup in India in October and November and if he comes through that unscathed, he may be an option for the red-ball series in the same country in early 2024, some three years after he played his last Test. That may be wishful thinking but it remains a tantalising prospect.

Spin-wise, with Moeen back into retirement, left-armer Jack Leach – a man whose confidence has blossomed under Stokes’ captaincy – will return from his stress fracture of the back at some point and England like what they see in teenage leggie Rehan Ahmed. He took a five-for on debut in Pakistan last winter.

Will Jacks, meanwhile, might be the new Moeen, an off-spinner who gives it a rip with the ball and a whack with the bat. Leach, Jacks and Ahmed could feature in India, with perhaps Sussex off-spinner Jack Carson an outside bet.

What next for England's Test team after Ashes series that had everything?

Stokes wants to become an all-rounder again

England’s batting line-up features three thirtysomethings in Joe Root (32), Stokes (32) and Jonny Bairstow (34 in September) but they are not going anywhere any time soon.

Root will surely cruise past Sir Alastair Cook’s England record of 12,472 Test runs – he is on 11,416 at the moment – and may even have Sachin Tendulkar’s 15,921 in his sights. He has enough time left to back-foot punch and reverse scoop his way past The Little Master.

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