Predicting England's Next 5 Test Debuts
England may have comprehensively won the Ashes and be currently ranked as the No. 2 Test side in the world, but their first XI is far from settled.
Doubts remain over the No. 6 position, which Jonny Bairstow has yet to lock down, while the third-seamer role is definitely up for grabs.
With the actual 2013/14 Ashes squad containing three players yet to play at the highest level and an England Performance Squad, effectively a B-side, being based in Australia while the Ashes are being contested, it is likely there could be some more debutantes soon.
Let's take a look at the five players most likely to be the next cabs of the rank and pick up England Test caps.
Stats are courtesy of Cricket Archive, unless noted otherwise.
England's quest for tall fast bowlers struck gold when they unearthed Boyd Rankin who seems set to play a significant part in the 2013/14 Ashes.
The 6'7" giant has been terrorising county batting lineups for the last few seasons and has 206 first-class wickets at a reasonable average to his name.
Born in Londonderry, the paceman has played many times for Ireland, but retired from the green jersey in 2012, so that he could be eligible to play for England.
With his pace and steepling bounce catching the selector's eye, he was introduced into the England set-up for a series of ODI's this summer, hitting the ground running causing the Aussies plenty of trouble.
The search for the new Ian Botham ended with Andrew Flintoff. But will the search for the next Flintoff end with Ben Stokes?
The 22-year-old followed in the Lancastrian's footsteps recently by being named the Cricket Writers' Club Young Cricketer of the Year and shares a number of other similarities with the Ashes legend.
Starting out primarily as a big-hitting batsman who bowls a bit, the Durham man has developed into a genuine all-rounder and took 42 County Championship wickets this season at a healthy average of 26.57.
With the bat, the youngster is a feared opponent, specifically in Limited-overs cricket, but he has also registered eight first-class centuries in his career so far.
Having put being sent home from an England Lions tour of Australia earlier in 2013 firmly behind him, it wouldn't be a surprise if Stokes made an appearance in the 2013/14 Ashes.
The rise and rise of Gary Ballance looks set to continue after he was named in England's touring party for the 2013/14 Ashes.
Making his debut for Zimbabwe at the age of 16, the burly left-hander soon switched to England in order to pursue a career in the game.
A slow progression through the ranks at Yorkshire has snowballed of late, culminating in his staggering 2013 season that included eight centuries, including one against Australia for the England Lions, and well over 2,000 runs in total.
Ballance clearly has something about him and a few decent scores in the warm-up games could easily lead to him usurping county teammate Jonny Bairstow.
At the start of his career in 2009, the 23-year-old was primarily a medium-paced seam bowler who could bat a little.
But his confidence has grown, and Willey has blossomed into a dangerous hitter and an opening bowler who took 45 County Championship wickets at 24.93.
The son of umpire and former Test player Peter Willey seems to have that X-factor, and if his staggering rate of improvement continues, England could have a genuine world-class all-rounder on their hands.
Middlesex's Sam Robson has just the type of game that England like at the top of their order.
The opener is patient, watchful and prepared to leave anything outside off-stump. In other words, it's a classic accumulator of runs in the mode of Chris Rogers.
And now it appears England have won the tug of war with Australia over the youngster who was born to an Australian father and English mother.
With 1,180 runs at 47.20 in this season's County Championship, Robson will be waiting in the wings for Joe Root to have a nightmare series.
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