Seven Ashes rookies on the rise


We've picked seven of the most-talked about Ashes novices and take a closer look at their chances of making an impact amongst their more learned-in-Ashes-conditions colleagues.

The Ashes is a set of Test matches that has the ability to whip Australia and England fans into a frenzy, with chatter about the little wooden urn's destination raging for weeks before the first Test.

This year, the contest takes place in England, the opening game at Trent Bridge, and there are a number of (relatively) new faces to pay attention to. England have only a few rookies, while Australia are slightly less experienced.

We've picked seven of the most-talked about Ashes novices and take a closer look at their chances of making an impact amongst their more learned-in-Ashes-conditions colleagues.

<b>1. Chris Rogers</b><br><i>Debut: v India in Perth, January 2008, Tests: 1, Ave: 9.50, HS: 15</i>

Until recently, Aussie opener Rogers was a fairly unknown quantity outside Australia and England, having played his only Test in 2008 and seemingly fading into the English county retirement home.

But his recent exploits as captain of Middlesex, scoring 790 runs in just eight games at the age of 35, prompted a second chance for the scholarly-looking opener.

He justified his selection with a nifty 75 in the warm-up against Worcestershire, and coach Darren Lehmann confirmed Rogers would open the first Test alongside Shane Watson. His form has caused the rest of the order to be shuffled around, as Ed Cowan finds himself unsure of an Ashes role if David Warner is reinstated post-punishment.

As for Rogers, he will be eager to make sure his second coming results in more than the 19 runs he recorded on dayboo. He's playing in the perfect country for it though, as he has five county stints under his belt and knows the venues intimately.

<b>2. Joe Root</b><br><i>Debut: v India in Nagpur, December 2012, Tests: 6, Ave: 42.40, HS: 104</i>

The 22-year-old Yorkshireman is the toast of the cricketing town at the moment (except if you're Nick Compton) and much is expected of him in his maiden Ashes series.

He's been bumped up the order to open alongside skipper Alastair Cook, having played his previous Tests in the middle order, and the selectors have said he is the best man for the job.

His calm, baby-faced confidence belies his years, and even on debut he showed his solid technique by making 73 and recording a century stand with Matt Prior. He's versatile too, adapting his shot selections and strike rate to the situation.

It's easy to feel sorry for Compton, ousted as he's been from the side, but it's impossible to begrudge Root his promotion as he's done everything right, inclduing scoring a century in the Headingley Test that saw Compton fail twice.

<b>3. David Warner</b><br><i>Debut: v New Zealand in Brisbane, December 2011, Tests: 19, Ave: 39.46, HS: 180</i>

The Australia batsman has been in the news of late, but for negative reasons. His much-discussed punch against Root in a Birmingham bar saw him banned during the run-up to the first Test, so he's not been able to show his value in the middle.

Still, Aussie skipper Michael Clarke has stated he wants Warner to play at Trent Bridge and beyond, and doesn't think a few warm up games would make any difference to Warner's game or state of mind.

That's a bit hard to believe though, given that Warner's form before being banned wasn't exactly impressive, recording two ducks in three games in the Champions Trophy. His final three knocks on the India tour failed to reach double figures, and he hasn't scored a Test ton since November 2012.

So, if Warner plays ahead of Ed Cowan or Steve Smith in this series, the pressure will be on him to perform from the outset, otherwise he might not get another go, even if Clarke backs him.

<b>4. Jonny Bairstow</b><br><i>Debut: v West Indies at Lord's, May 2012, Tests: 8, Ave: 31, HS: 95</i>

Root's Yorkshire team-mate has been on the scene a little longer but not by much, and has had a few chances to prove himself after failing to impress on debut. His first three Tests saw him top-score with 18, but he saved his place with a gritty set of half centuries against South Africa at Lord's.

If Kevin Pietersen hadn't been injured for much of this year, Bairstow may have been without a place, and he's been fortunate to retain it now, thanks to Compton's exit from the side. Had the ECB stuck with Compo, Bairstow would have made way for a fit KP.

As it is, the selectors must be hoping Bairstow's flashes of brilliance in the middle order will become more sustained sessions of solidity as he seeks a maiden Test century, whereas Compton has two tons in nine Tests.

One thing counting in Bairstow's favour is his ability with the gloves, should anything happen to Matt Prior. He is Yorkshire's regular wicketkeeper, and while not as solid behind the stumps he's the only back-up in the mix.

<b>5. Nathan Lyon</b><br><i>Debut: v Sri Lanka at Galle, August 2011, Tests: 22, Wkts: 76, Ave: 33.18</i>

The former groundsman's overall average is slightly misleading as his recent form is far more impressive. He was a bright light for the Aussies on that disastrous India tour, taking nine wickets in Delhi after recovering from a humiliating 3/215 in Chennai.

He is the only proper spinner in the squad on this trip, with intern Ashton Agar along for the experience, and the pressure will be on Lyon to keep the runs down and take wickets too, on tracks that lately seem to benefit spinners.

He last went without a wicket in an innings in January this year, while playing for South Australia, and his economy rate is a little over three. If he can do slightly as well as Graeme Swann on these tracks, the Aussies could be in with a chance.

<b>6. James Pattinson</b><br><i>Debut: v New Zealand at Brisbane, December 2011, Tests: 10, Wkts: 40, Ave: 23.37</i>

Pattinson made his debut in the same Test as Warner, but thanks to various injuries has played nine fewer Tests. He was out of action between April and November last year, and upon his return he promptly picked up a side strain against South Africa.

But he is fully fit now, and the Aussies will need him to stay that way as he is in great nick, taking seven wickets against Somerset. He did not play against Worcestershire, presumably to prevent any risk of returning to the treatment room.

'Patto', whose brother Darren once played a random Test for England, is also handy with the bat and averages nearly 29 in Tests. He made 66 for Australia A against Ireland last month, and only James Faulkner's all-round talent (for a bowler) has been better lately.

<b>7. Mitchell Starc</b><br><i>Debut: v New Zealand at Brisbane, December 2011, Tests: 9, Wkts: 30, Ave: 34.03</i>

Another product of the Brisbane 2011 Test, Starc has too been in the company of the physio and surgeons more often than not. He only recently recovered from ankle surgery to remove bone spurs, and missed much of the India tour.

He's made an impactful return though, helping Pattinson remove eight Somerset wickets for only 10 runs. The