LONDON (Reuters) -England named their strongest available squad for the Ashes tour in Australia as all-rounders Ben Stokes and Sam Curran missed out but seamer Stuart Broad was included despite the calf injury he picked up in the test series against India.

Stokes was unavailable as he continues his indefinite break from cricket to focus on his mental health, while also recovering from a second operation on a broken finger. Curran was omitted due to a stress fracture in his lower back.

There were no uncapped players in the 17-member squad that included recalls for batsman Zak Crawley and spinner Dom Bess.

Fast bowler Jofra Archer was also unavailable after he suffered a recurrence of a stress fracture in his elbow and Olly Stone was ruled out with a back injury.

Coach Chris Silverwood said England are “battle hardened” after playing tests New Zealand and India during the summer in the build-up to the Ashes.

“We’ve had some tough tests coming into this, playing New Zealand and India who are the two best teams in the world. That’s been great preparation for us… It’s massively exciting this series is going ahead,” Silverwood told reporters.

The series had been in doubt after England players expressed concerns about the tour due to “bubble fatigue” and because their families would not be able to travel with them due to Australia’s strict COVID-19 protocols, but the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) gave conditional approval for it to go ahead on Friday.

Silverwood said captain Joe Root played a key role in ensuring players made themselves available for the series and praised his leadership skills.

“There were a lot of negotiations that went on… (Root) showed a lot of class, a lot of empathy and a lot of real good leadership skills to get the players to this point. Equally, the way he looked after the staff as well.

“What it has done, I think, is galvanise his position as a leader… He came back with a very level view on everything and it really helped to get us to this point.”

The first test is due to begin in Brisbane on Dec. 8, followed by a day-night match in Adelaide from Dec. 16 before the traditional Boxing Day test in Melbourne.

Sydney will host the fourth match and the final test will be in Perth starting on Jan. 14.

Australia retained the Ashes when the teams last met in 2019 in England after a 2-2 series draw.

Squad: Joe Root (captain), James Anderson, Jonathan Bairstow, Dom Bess, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Zak Crawley, Haseeb Hameed, Dan Lawrence, Jack Leach, Dawid Malan, Craig Overton, Ollie Pope, Ollie Robinson, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood

(Reporting by Dhruv Munjal, Manasi Pathak and Hritika Sharma in Bengaluru, editing by Ed Osmond and Pritha Sarkar)



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