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The Ashes: James Anderson returns to England team for first Test

England have named their team for the first Ashes Test against Australia, with James Anderson and Ollie Robinson returning to the side.

Doubts were raised over Anderson’s fitness after suffering with a groin injury that kept him out of the Ireland Test, while Robinson was nursing an Achilles injury.

There are no major surprises in the XI, with the bowling attack in particular set to be rotated throughout the series.

The injury to Jofra Archer was a blow to the hosts’ Ashes hopes, leaving Mark Wood as their only recognised quick bowler, and while England have favoured naming their strongest XI available as opposed to resting players between Tests, Wood will almost certainly get a call-up at some point during the series, with the combined age of 76 meaning Stuart Broad and Anderson are unlikely to play in all five Tests.

Lord’s may well be where Wood comes in to the picture, with England stating their preference for fast, flat wickets throughout the series, and England’s laboured attempts to bowl out Ireland in the second innings of their one-off Test in which the tourists reached 325/6 will only enhance Wood’s claims for a starting spot.

Jack Leach’s injury prompted a call-up for Moeen Ali, who was dropped for the 2019 series and should provide some extra firepower down the order. You can back Ali at 18/1 to be Player of the Match.

While Ali’s average over his last 13 Test innings is just 12.46, Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum will hope that the new philosophy in English Test cricket can see him return to the sort of form that saw him post scores of 61, 155*, 86*, 108, 68, 117, 50 and 146 in a calendar year.

Lots of focus will be on England’s openers, in particular Zak Crawley. The much-maligned batter has been given plenty of opportunities in Test cricket, despite averaging 28.26, a figure that’s perhaps artificially inflated with scores of 267, 122 and 121. Take those three innings out of the equation and the average drops to a hugely sub-par 20.93.

Focus will also be on wicket-keeper Jonny Bairstow, who was a shoo-in to return after recovering from a broken leg last year, but he’s perhaps a little fortuitous to be taking the gloves back from stand-in Ben Foakes, who missed out on a place in the squad.

The Surrey man averaged 38.91 after returning to the Test side last year but the rise of Harry Brook has made the Yorkshireman undroppable. Brook is 10/1 to be the top 1st innings batter.

Brook currently averages a ridiculous 81.80 from his 11 Test innings, but could be extremely rusty having spent most of the spring watching his Sunrisers Hyderabad colleagues limp to the bottom of the IPL table, facing just seven balls before England declared against Ireland.

England are 6/4 to win the 1st Test at Edgbaston, but their flamboyant style is yet to face an attack as good as Australia's, with the tourists 13/10 to take a 1-0 lead.

England team to play Australia:

Zak Crawley
Ben Duckett
Ollie Pope
Joe Root
Harry Brook
Ben Stokes
Jonny Bairstow
Moeen Ali
Stuart Broad
Ollie Robinson
James Anderson

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