England's squad for this winter's Ashes defence picks itself - or does it?
Chairman of Selectors Geoff Miller will announce the names of the players charged with keeping the urn out of Australia's grasp for a fourth successive series on Monday at Lord's.
Towards the end of England's 3-0 victory this summer, Andrew Strauss - who led England to Ashes glory at home and Down Under in 2009 and 2010/11 respectively - sat down with fellow former England captains Nasser Hussain and Michael Atherton to discuss how modern-day selection works and who will make it onto the plane.
Collectively (and after some debate) they came up with these 13 names - Alastair Cook, Joe Root, Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell, Jonny Bairstow, James Taylor, Matt Prior, Tim Bresnan, Stuart Broad, Graeme Swann, James Anderson, Steven Finn - leaving several spots up for grabs.
But how has the NatWest Series changed that list and who deserves to be added to it? Have your say by filling out the feedback form at the bottom of this page. Here are the thoughts of our 'selectors'...
MICHAEL ATHERTON: There are three main issues for the selectors to resolve - the rest probably looks after itself. Who will be the spare batsmen? That one looks to be a straight contest between Eoin Morgan, James Taylor and Jonny Bairstow. Secondly, who will be the second spinner? Will Monty Panesar be forgiven for his mid-season misdemeanours with Sussex; has he bowled well enough this summer to warrant a second spinning place? And then they've got to pick six out of seven fast bowlers, so one of Graham Onions, Chris Tremlett or Boyd Rankin will probably have to miss out. Rankin and Tremlett could both go but if it comes down to a straight choice I'd go for Rankin because he performed well in the NatWest Series and his extra bounce will prove a real handful out in Australia.
MICHAEL HOLDING: I think Rankin will make the Ashes squad but I'm not too sure he'll get into the final 11 because there are several guys in front of him. Australia is not a bad place to go and learn. He'll play in a few matches on the periphery and watching the frontline bowlers bowl won't do him any harm. Australian pitches are the best pitches in the world to bowl fast on and even if you are not playing in a game yourself you can watch the opposition bowlers as well as your own - and you can learn from that.
NASSER HUSSAIN: There are always one or two surprises - but the main players waiting around for a 'good news' phone call from Geoff Miller will be Nick Compton, Michael Carberry, Boyd Rankin, Chris Tremlett, Monty Panesar and Jonny Bairstow. Don't forget that England will have the development squad, which is virtually a second team, out there anyway so it's not like the old days when you just listened out for 15 or 16 names. There will be people placed all round Australia waiting to step in if there is an injury. At the risk of upsetting our committee, I'll stick my neck out and pick my own squad: Cook, Root, Trott, Pietersen, Bell, Bairstow, Prior, Bresnan, Broad, Swann, Anderson, Finn - plus Rankin, Stokes, Compton and Panesar.
BOB WILLIS: I don't suppose there will be any argument about this initial nine: Cook, Trott, Pietersen, Bell, Prior, Bresnan (if fit), Broad, Swann, Anderson. I imagine Root will be there as well, with Finn, Onions and Rankin as the reserve pace bowlers and Panesar as the second spinner. I'm not convinced about Bairstow as a number six Test match batsman but if they need someone to keep wicket in case of emergency, I guess he should be there.
That leaves a discussion between moving Root down the order and picking a specialist opening batsman or persisting with Root and picking another reserve middle-order batsman. The candidates for the opening berth are Nick Compton and Michael Carberry, with Eoin Morgan and Gary Ballance vying for the middle-order berth. Root hasn't done any better than Compton at the top of the order, even allowing for the fact that he played in an Ashes series rather than against New Zealand. I'm going to keep my options open about that spot because I actually wouldn't mind seeing Trott open with Cook, but I'm not sure the selectors would see it like that. I don't think they'll go back to Compton and I don't think they'll go for Carberry either.
My preference in the middle would be Morgan (although I'm not convinced the selectors will go for him). I know he hasn't played a lot of first-class cricket recently but I think that his temperament is stronger than some of the other candidates. That means I've discarded the likes of Chris Woakes, Simon Kerrigan, James Tredwell, Ballance, Michael Carberry and James Taylor. Chris Tremlett had a good tour in 2010/11 but he hasn't rolled many people over for Surrey. If he was fully fit and firing, they'd take him but I think Rankin might sneak into his spot now. Some people are talking about Ben Stokes making the trip but I think it's a little bit early for him - but his time will come.
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