So it looks like England will not name their squad of players that will represent England in the Ashes Series - three ODIs, one Test and three T20s - until the beginning of July.
I expect the squad to be probably 15/16 players and there will be no designation of who will play in which format. In the past this was done before the series started, only for injury and form to require changes to be made as the series went along. I anticipate that the pared-down squad for each format will be announced a few days before each format begins.
Delaying the squad announcement until early July will also give the players in contention a few more chances to show what they can do. There are county T20 fixtures on 14th June, followed by County Championship games on 21st June. There is also then apparently an England v England Academy game on 30th June in Loughborough. The recent four day fixture (the "Loughborough Test") with this moniker actually turned out to be a practice match for the Winter Training Squad of 22, plus a few Academy players. This could well be the same, and it could be a last chance to impress before the squad is announced.
As things stand it is very hard to see England picking any player outside of the 18 contracted players. Of those 18 two missed the Loughborough Test - Danni Wyatt with her shoulder injury, which she picked up slipping over batting against Berkshire two weeks ago and Jenny Gunn, who has a foot issue. Both I understand hope to be back playing very soon.
Assuming therefore that the entire squad is fit which 15/16 will get the nod?
The first names on the squad list will be Charlotte Edwards, Sarah Taylor and Heather Knight. They have all been in a bit of form with the bat in the County Championship and each one of them got a score in the Loughborough Test. Knight's bowling form does look to be a bit of an issue and I suspect she may have a current back issue, but I could well be wrong. This is just from her body language at Loughborough.
Next on the list will be Katherine Brunt and Anya Shrubsole. They have been the mainstay of England's pace attack for the last three years, and will no doubt continue to be so this summer, although both have been a bit expensive of late, guilty of bowling too short on occasions. Both have been working hard on their batting and it would not surprise me to see them migrate to the all-rounders role (possibly sooner rather than later), with less expected of their bowling. Kate Cross is the next pace bowler in the pecking order and will be selected. She has had a well-documented effect in the men's game early this season, but she has found wickets hard to come by in the women's game - just two in the three Women's County Championship matches and only one in two stints at the Loughborough Test. This may be down to a matter of respect. She gets it in the women's game, but perhaps she does not in the men's?
As for spinners off -spinner Dani Hazell and left-armer Rebecca Grundy seem certain to keep their places in the squad. Hazell has a knack of taking wickets although she can be expensive. Grundy is generally pretty miserly but is a less attacking option.
The ninth name into the squad will undoubtedly be Amy Jones. Her name is pencilled in early as the back-up keeper to Sarah Taylor, but she also has a right to be considered as a middle-order batting option, particularly after her fine century at the Loughborough Test. She is a very selfless player, who has probably not had as many chances as she deserves. I would like to think she will get them this summer, but I think once again poor form or injury for others will be her only way into the final 11.
Despite poor form against the Shooting Stars in Dubai and an iffy start to the County Championship, Nat Sciver's name will almost certainly feature in the squad and in the 11 to play in the first ODI on 21st July. Her final innings in New Zealand showed what she is capable of, but England desperately need her to fire early. Lydia Greenway will also make the squad, but she was dropped from the starting 11 in New Zealand after some poor batting displays and she looks vulnerable. Lauren Winfield has been in decent form for Yorkshire in their two games thus far this season and hit a decent 56 in the Loughborough Test. It looks like England are considering her as a possible opening bat in the longer formats of the game (she currently has the job in the T20s), allowing Charlotte Edwards to prop up a middle order that has been found wanting on far too many occasions recently. After her exploits in Dubai with the bat against the Shooting Stars and a crisp 71 in the second innings at Loughborough, plus her ability to bowl, Georgia Elwiss, is likely to find her name in the squad. She is an attacking option, both with the bat and the ball. She might have to sit out the first few games, but could well get a chance later in the series, depending on results and player fitness. Finally long-serving Jenny Gunn's name will be in the 15. She had a miserable time out in New Zealand, but I cannot see England leaving her out of the squad. It was a great shame that she was not fit enough to play in the Loughborough Test, where she could have shown what she can do, but she has had a reasonable start to the season with Notts, if county form counts for anything?
So that leaves just one or two places in the squad. Of the 18 contracted players you have Tammy Beaumont, Tash Farrant, Laura Marsh, and Danni Wyatt left. I think one or two will be taken from here. The four others in the Winter Training Squad were Jodie Dibble, Beth Langston, Sonia Odedra and Fran Wilson. Who gets the final couple of slots is a matter of conjecture and overall squad make-up. There could even be a couple of surprises, but I think that is unlikely unless there are injury issues.
As for the starting 11 in the first ODI I think they will go with :-
Winfield, Knight, Taylor, Edwards, Sciver, Greenway, Brunt, Shrubsole, Gunn, Hazell, Grundy
As for my 11 I would go with :-
Winfield, Knight, Sciver, Taylor, Edwards, Elwiss, Jones, Shrubsole, Brunt, Hazell, Grundy