Stuart Broad preferred to Mark Wood for England’s opening Ashes Test

Stuart Broad preferred to Mark Wood for England’s opening Ashes Test

England have favoured Stuart Broad’s experience over Mark Wood’s raw pace for the first Ashes Test at Edgbaston, naming their playing XI two days early in a show of confidence.

With James Anderson and Ollie Robinson fit to return to the XI after resting injury niggles against Ireland at Lord’s, there was just one spot left in the seam attack for Friday’s series opener.

Captain Ben Stokes has previously spoken of his desire to have a 90mph option at his disposal and, with Jofra Archer and Olly Stone on the sidelines, the temptation to unleash the quickest bowler in the country must have been considerable.

But Wood was edged out by Broad, who led the attack impressively against the Irish at the start of the month and whose record of 162 caps and 582 wickets is bettered only by Anderson.

His selection guarantees another chapter in the 36-year-old’s storied rivalry with Australia opener David Warner, who floundered badly against Broad in 2019, when the Englishman dismissed him seven times in 10 innings.

With Moeen Ali slotting straight in at number eight after agreeing to rescind his Test retirement, the only question that lingers over the England side concerns the fitness of Stokes.

His longstanding left knee problems have been a source of constant speculation, but he has ramped up his participation in training over the past 48 hours. He bowled 12 deliveries in a gentle centre practice on Monday, getting through his action but never threatening full pace, and raised that to around 18 in the nets on Tuesday.

The Ashes 2023 package
Mark Wood misses out (Darren England/AAP/PA)

Despite wearing heavy strapping he was quickly up to near full speed in what was his most thorough workout in months and also appeared to bat pain-free. Just how much he is able to contribute with the ball is an open question but had he been fully fit to play an enforcer role it may well have helped Wood’s case.

He is best used over short, sharp spells of three to four overs and a fully active seam-bowling all-rounder can help pick up the slack.

Opener Ben Duckett and number five Harry Brook are the only players in the side to be making their Ashes debuts in Birmingham, while Broad and Anderson have both taken the field 35 times against the old enemy.