The countdown is already on until the next Ashes series, which will take place in England in 2019.
Until then, Australia will hold the famous urn after thumping the Three Lions Down Under.
In the aftermath of the 4-0 series drubbing, England hierarchy have been accused of a lack of planning and preparation.
As such, there is plenty of work to do for Joe Root’s side ahead of five Test matches on home soil against the old enemy in 18 months’ time.
Here, we predict which XI England might go with when they try and win back the 11 cm high urn. As the saying goes, you’re always a better player when you’re out of the team and at this stage it’s easy to speculate – but there’s no doubt changes need to be considered.
Alastair Cook: England’s all-time leading Test run-scorer had a nightmare series, his epic Melbourne innings aside, but the left-hander is a stubborn character and won’t want to bow out on an Ashes loss. He is still the best player available to open the batting and England shouldn’t wish away a modern-day great. A victory against the old enemy in 2019 would be a perfect way to end it all.
Haseeb Hameed: Touted as ‘Baby Boycott’, Hameed’s form has deteriorated massively since making his debut in India and he endured a torrid second season with Lancashire. However, he is highly thought of among England management and will still be only 22 when the series starts. He is likely to be given another go this year at the top, potentially ahead of Mark Stoneman, and really needs to grab the opportunity with both hands.
TO BAT AT THREE
Joe Root: The captain make have to be bumped up the batting order to three, but as the best player in the side, it’s where he should bat. Root will work out a way to solve his 50s to 100 conversion problem and will only grow into the captaincy role. Showed plenty Down Under to suggest he is the right man, still, to lead England forward for years to come.
Dawid Malan: One of the few Englishman whose stock rose in Australia. An epic hundred at the WACA, combined with lots of grit, determination and the ability to change his game up and get his feet moving to counteract the pace attack he faced all underlined his talent. If he continues this kind of form then he should get parachuted up the order and enjoy a long run in the side despite coming late to the international party.
Ben Foakes (left) and Jack Leach (right) are two players in the frame.
Jonny Bairstow: Averaged 34 in the series and showed his quality with a beautiful ton in Perth – and will be a key man – possibly the next vice-captain – for England. Bairstow was impressive behind the stumps but England might well be tempted to use him as just a specialist batter and promote Ben Foakes to keeping duties, in a move which could really help JB to develop further as a batsman and score big.
Ben Stokes: He simply has to be in this eleven. Despite all what has gone on over the past few months, providing he is able to get back to what he does best – playing cricket – then Stokes should still hold the mantle as the world’s premier all-rounder. Plays a huge role with bat and bowl, being England’s fourth seamer, and is an outstanding fielder, too. Who wouldn’t want him in their side?
Ben Foakes: Heralded as the best gloveman in the world by no less an authority than Alec Stewart, his director of cricket at Surrey, Foakes will be 26 by the time the Ashes rolls around again and may well have a few England appearances to his name by then. More than handy with the bat and has already shown his credentials on Lions duty. By standing behind the stumps, he would be a safe pair of hands and ease the pressure on Bairstow.
Craig Overton: While express pace is an issue throughout the whole bowling attack (and probably will be for years to come), Overton still has time on his side to develop and he impressed with his gutsiness in the heat of Ashes battle, despite a cracked rib ending his series prematurely. Definitely has a big future for England.
Tom Curran: Showed enough signs Down Under that he can develop into a fine quick, with his pace and power through the crease. Curran will only benefit from the experience and should get more opportunities. He’s young but has an excellent temperament and maturity already.
Jack Leach: England are crying out for a specialist spinner and urgently need to address that problem. The Somerset man is very much the next in line after shining in the County Championship for the past couple of seasons and re-correcting his illegal bowling action in-between the two summers. Needs to be given a chance, and if he grasps it, has a very good chance of cementing his place with doubts over Moeen Ali and Mason Crane still learning his trade.
James Anderson: The leader of the attack claimed 17 wickets at a shade under 28 from five Tests, proving he is still the best England have – even at the age of 35. Injury-permitting, I have no doubts that Anderson can carry on until the next Ashes and sign off on a high. He didn’t perform as well as he would liked throughout the five Tests but is still a fine exponent of home conditions. Again, England need to appreciate having an all-time great around while he is still at the top of his game.
KEY MEN TO MISS OUT:
Mark Stoneman: The Surrey opener averaged just over 25 from nine Ashes innings – simply not good enough at Test level. He didn’t seem to figure out a way of counteracting his short-ball woes and never really looked like going on to get a big score. Once again, England will need to make a change at the top.
James Vince: Comfortably one of the most pleasing batsmen on the eye, in fact, there are few better around in the elegance stakes. But, at 26 and having been given a few chances now, the Hampshire man’s time is likely to be up by 2019. His knocks in Brisbane and Perth were great to watch however he has failed to address his vulnerability outside off-stump and nicking behind. It’s a mental problem for Vince rather than technique.
Moeen Ali: One of the most likeable cricketers around, and a fine servant for England at that, but the batting all-rounder’s days as a Test star could be coming to an end. Moeen endured a shocker of a series with both ball and bat and England’s need for a spin specialist is urgent. Should still play an integral part in limited-overs cricket, though.
Chris Woakes: The man nicknamed the ‘wizard’ is a top-class cricketer and will be in and around limited-overs for sometime but his poor injury record means he can no longer be relied on fully as a Test bowler. His body seems to break down at the wrong time, went for plenty of runs in Australia and didn’t bowl as quickly as many would have hoped.
Stuart Broad: Another modern-day England hero, but the experienced paceman has had a difficult past 18 months or so. We haven’t seen his streaky bursts with the ball for a while and even though he is just one wicket away from 400, arguably his best days are behind him. I’d like to be proved wrong and how he performs in New Zealand as well as at home next summer will be key to how long he can keep running in hard for.
Mason Crane: Perhaps harsh to include him in this category as he still has a very bright future for England, but at just 20, has years on his side to develop and craft his art in first-class and limited-overs cricket, instead of the international arena.
OTHERS WHO MISS THE CUT:
Gary Ballance and Jake Ball
English selectors have decisions to make.