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England's Ashes bowling options: Who might be required against Australia as injuries mount?

Ben Stokes wants battery of fast bowlers for Ashes and may need them with injuries starting to mount; Saqib Mahmood, Chris Woakes and Sam Cook among those pushing for spots; watch the Ashes live on Sky Sports from June 16; England begin summer against Ireland on June 1

England bowlers James Anderson, Saqib Mahmood and Chris Woakes
Image: With James Anderson (left) dealing with a mild groin issue, will Saqib Mahmood (centre) and Chris Woakes (right) play important roles this summer?

England captain Ben Stokes wants eight pace bowlers available during the Ashes as he looks to win back the urn from Australia.

Injuries are proving concerning, as ever, with Jofra Archer ruled out for the entire summer and fellow speedster Olly Stone currently sidelined by a hamstring strain.

James Anderson, meanwhile, picked up a "mild strain to his right groin" while bowling for Lancashire in the County Championship with his fitness to be assessed closer to England's Test against Ireland at Lord's from June 1. The 40-year-old is still expected to be named in the squad for the opening Test of the summer.

Thankfully, then, there are plenty of options for Stokes to call upon this summer with a double-figure number of pacemen in the mix..

James Anderson, County Championship (Getty Images)
Image: Anderson's fitness will be assessed ahead of England's Test match against Ireland at Lord's from June 1

The main men

Anderson, Stuart Broad and Ollie Robinson were England's key seamers over the winter as the team won 3-0 in Pakistan and drew a two-match series in New Zealand, combining for 43 wickets across the five Tests.

Each of Broad's 10 scalps came in New Zealand with the 36-year-old sitting out the trip to the subcontinent in December due to paternity leave.

He returned with a bang against the Black Caps by snaring two four-wicket hauls, including one under the lights in Mount Maunganui as he produced another of his trademark spellbinding bursts.

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Anderson and Broad have now taken over 1,000 wickets in Tests they have played together, eclipsing Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne as the most prolific partnership in the format, and they will fancy nabbing a few more against Australia with further milestones in their sights. Broad is 24 strikes away from 600 Test wickets, while 40-year-old Anderson needs 15 for 700.

Broad must be hoping Australia retain faith in David Warner with the seamer knocking over the left-handed opener seven times during the 2019 Ashes series in England, although he has also been working on an out-swinger that he feels can challenge the outside edge of key right-handers Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne.

Anderson bowled just four overs in the 2019 Ashes series due to a calf problem he suffered on the opening morning of the first Test at Edgbaston.

Anderson and Broad will hope to play a large part this year but Robinson looks best placed of the seamers to play all five Ashes Tests, having improved his fitness dramatically since he was called out on that by then-England bowling coach Jon Lewis during the 4-0 drubbing in Australia in 2021-22. Robinson was an ever-present in Pakistan and New Zealand this winter.

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Tall, accurate, skilful and with the ability to nip the ball both ways, Robinson has claimed 66 wickets in 16 Tests for England at an average of 21.27, while he has hoovered up 15 scalps for Sussex in the County Championship so far this term in just two games.

The pace men

Bowlers who can break the 90mph barrier are electrifying to watch and great to have at your disposal but they can also break down.

Archer, who burst on the Test scene against Australia in 2019, has not played a five-day international since 2021 due to elbow and shoulder problems and said recently he would be happy with one Ashes fixture this summer.

The announcement of the squad to face Ireland in England's first home Test of the year came with the news the Sussex paceman has been sidelined for the entire summer due to a stress fracture in his right elbow.

"I think the difficulty is just the recurring nature of this injury which he first suffered two years ago," former England captain Michael Atherton told Sky Sports.

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Sky Sports' Michael Atherton says Jofra Archer will be 'distraught' after being ruled out of The Ashes due to his elbow injury.

"He has not played Test cricket for two years now and it has been recurring and recurring again and that is the worry that he and the medical staff can't seem to get over it."

Stone, meanwhile, is dealing with the latest in a long line of injuries and is set to miss at least the Ashes opener at Edgbaston, a ground he knows well from a six-year stint at Warwickshire.

The plan appeared to be to rotate X-factor bowlers Archer, Stone and Mark Wood throughout the series but there is now a high chance Wood will be the only one of that trio available for the start - and quite possibly the only one available over the course of the summer.

England will have to manage Wood carefully. He can be devastating - he was just that with a four-wicket haul as Stokes' side clinched the 3-0 sweep in Pakistan pre-Christmas - but has a track record of injuries.

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Mark Wood could shoulder the pace burden with Archer and Olly Stone's fitness for the Ashes unclear

With Jamie Overton conceding his hopes of an Ashes appearance are remote following a stress fracture of the back, Lancashire's Saqib Mahmood could be in line for a call-up. He is not quite as quick as Wood, Archer and Stone but is still able to reach sharp speeds and reverse swing the ball, too.

Brydon Carse, the Durham quick who generates pace and bounce, is another candidate - if the side injury he has sustained proves not that serious.

The hosts may not need express pace to win The Ashes - Australia's problems in the past have often stemmed from their playing of more traditional English seamers - but Stokes would still like the option.

The contenders

It would be unwise to write off Chris Woakes playing a key role in the series. He has not played a Test since March 2022 but has a better Test bowling average in home conditions (22.63) than Anderson (23.79) and Broad (25.89) and a mastery of the Dukes ball, plus he gives you handy runs down the order.

Chris Woakes (Associated Press)
Image: Woakes has a better Test bowling average on home soil than either Anderson or Broad

Sam Curran offers batting skill, too, as well as a left-arm option that appears unlikely to come from elsewhere, while Matthew Potts will be hoping to build on a brilliant breakthrough summer in 2022 which yielded 20 wickets in five Tests. Durham man Potts is in form, having collected 24 wickets in four games in the Championship's second division so far this term.

Craig Overton - who has proven more durable than twin brother Jamie - picked up a four-wicket haul for Somerset against Lancashire at the weekend and will be targeting adding to his eight Test caps, the last of which came in the West Indies in March 2022.

The outsiders

Other bowlers to impress in the Championship so far this season include Warwickshire's former Durham metronome Chris Rushworth, who has pocketed 30 in five games at an average of 14.20. At 36 years of age, Rushworth's hopes of an England call-up may have gone but the same cannot be said of Sam Cook and Josh Tongue, both of whom are 25.

Essex star Cook and Worcestershire bowler Tongue have featured for England Lions and may be eyeing a step up, with Cook's game focused on accuracy and Tongue that bit quicker, as Steve Smith found out when he was pinned lbw by him while batting for Sussex recently.

Josh Tongue (Getty Images)
Image: Josh Tongue could be an outsider for an Ashes call-up

As for other Ashes bolters, let's throw in Nottinghamshire's Brett Hutton and Derbyshire's Sam Conners, who are consistent wicket-takers in the domestic game.

Hutton has three top-flight five-fors and 25 wickets in total so far this campaign, while Conners picked up 50 last season, broke into the England Lions set-up, and harbours hopes of becoming the first Derbyshire player to represent England since Dominic Cork made his final international appearance in 2002.

Right now, it seems unlikely that Hutton and Conners will be testing themselves against Labuschagne, Smith and co but if injuries keep hitting the England camp, you just never know…

Watch England's Test summer live on Sky Sports Cricket. The four-day Test against Ireland takes place at Lord's between June 1-4 with the Ashes series under way at Edgbaston from June 16.

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