With both Jofra Archer, and most likely Olly Stone, out of this winter’s Ashes, who could be this year’s Ashes bolter to provide some pace alongside Mark Wood?
England have two obsessions when going into an away Ashes series. The desire for anyone to bowl close to, or above, 90mph, and picking randomers out of nowhere. Previous surprise selections include Boyd Rankin and Scott Borthwick in 2013/14 and then Craig Overton, Tom Curran and Mason Crane in 2017/18.
England will no doubt be taking an enlarged squad to the Ashes as Australia’s strict quarantine rules will prevent them from calling anyone up at late notice. The seamers that you can safely guess are currently on the plane are James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Sam Curran, Chris Woakes, Ollie Robinson, Mark Wood, Craig Overton, Saqib Mahmood and Ben Stokes (fitness permitting). Then you take into account the fact that Archer and Stone have already been ruled out the names below are effectively competing for the role twelfth choice seamer, but such is the way of the modern world, they are feasibly only one injury away from being on the plane.
So who are they?
Saqib Mahmood – Lancashire
Perhaps not a bolter for the squad given that he is in the England Test squad for the ongoing series against India, but he is a strong outside bet to be a late riser into the XI itself. England clearly see great value in the Lancastrian and his performances in the recent ODI series against Pakistan saw him cement his reputation of a bowler of international quality. With the red ball, he is averaging 21.56 in this year’s County Championship.
George Garton – Sussex
Bowls quick, has heaps of potential but has had numerous injury problems across his young career. He can also whack it miles. As a package, this makes him arguably the most complete player in terms of Ashes bolter potential. Would it be a sensible selection? Probably not, given he boasts a very modest first-class record (a bowling average of 35.66). But would I like it to happen? Absolutely. Get him in.
David Payne – Gloucestershire
To describe Payne as a bolter would be to perhaps undersell the years of hard work and wickets for Gloucestershire that will have gone into his selection. A brisk left-armer who at 30 years old is finally getting some of the recognition he deserves by playing a prominent role for the Welsh Fire in The Hundred and gaining international recognition earlier in the summer for the Pakistan ODIs. With the red-ball he has averaged 14.21 with the ball in 2020 and 20.56 in 2021. He put in a particularly impressive performance against Middlesex this season claiming match figures of 11-87.
Luke Wood – Lancashire
Another left-armer, Wood has gained a reputation for being a reliable performer across all formats in the county game. A first-class average of 33 with the ball is paired with an average of 26 with the bat making him an all-round quantity. This season he has performed particularly well having taken 17 wickets at 32 whilst averaging 40 with the bat. An unlikely selection but a safe pair of hands.
Brydon Carse – Durham
Bowled quickly in the ODI series against Pakistan and claimed a five-wicket haul in the Edgbaston game. Carse has also bowled very well in the County Championship this year, taking 34 wickets at an average of 21. Probably the quickest bowler on this list, Carse has a decent chance of making the plane.
Reece Topley – Surrey
Topley is the fourth and final left-armer on the list. Topley has played very little first-class cricket since 2017 having battled numerous stress fractures, but has performed well for Surrey this year (15 wickets @ 24.93) in his first full-ish season back in red-ball cricket. Already an international bowler having been capped in both white-ball formats, Topley’s pace and size (6’7″) could see him being thought of as a wildcard potential for a Test or two.
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