Former Australian captain Mark Taylor has identified England’s batting and spin bowling as its potential Achilles heel, after the 17-man squad was named for this summer’s tour.

Captained by Joe Root, it’s a near full-strength squad, with Jofra Archer and Ben Stokes the notable omissions.

Taylor’s one-time Ashes rival, Mike Atherton, described the squad as “uninspiring”, but noted in his column for The Times that Australia faces much the same issue.

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“It is not the strongest squad England have taken to Australia — nor is it the weakest,” he wrote.

“Australia might be so described as well.

“Any doubts over England’s prospects are tempered to some extent by the doubts in Australia’s camp, where much rests on the form of Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne, and the fitness of the main three fast bowlers: Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc.”

Even despite the absence of Archer and Stokes, Taylor pointed out that England’s fast-bowling group looks to have plenty of depth.

The ever present James Anderson and Stuart Broad are joined by Chris Woakes, Ollie Robinson, Craig Overton and Mark Wood.

“It’s probably the strongest squad they could pick, and the fast bowling looks pretty good to me,” he told Wide World of Sports.

“They’re going to struggle in two areas. I’m not sure about their spin bowling, and obviously the batting is going to be potentially their Achilles heel.

“I didn’t mind the look of Ollie Robinson against India. I’m only judging based on what I saw on TV in the winter just gone, but he’s a big tall bloke, hits the deck hard, if he gets it right in Australian conditions I think he’ll ask some questions.

“He’s not overly experienced, but if he’s bowling behind some consistent performances from the likes of Broad, Anderson or Woakes, they’ve got the potential to take 20 wickets.”

Taylor flagged the possibility that England will rotate their quick bowlers through the series, in much the same way that Australia did in 2019, where Pat Cummins was the only fast bowler to play all five matches.

“They’ve got six quicks to choose from, so I suspect you’ll see some rotation, but if they win at the Gabba they might be reluctant to do so,” he explained.

“England’s best side probably includes both Anderson and Broad, and perhaps including Woakes as an all-rounder they might be able to play four quicks.”

The former Australian captain stressed that England’s quicks will be expected to take the vast majority of wickets this summer.

England spin bowlers have enjoyed a less than stellar time of it in Australia over the years, with Moeen Ali’s five wickets in the 2017-18 series costing 115 apiece.

“The left-arm spin of Leach, he showed in 2019 he can certainly do a job, in terms of keeping it quiet, and that’s what England spinners tend to do in Australia,” Taylor explained.

“There’s no doubt Australia, with Nathan Lyon, have an advantage in the spin department.

“Leach’s job, or Dom Bess if that’s the way they go, will be to keep it tight while the quicks pick up the wickets.”

Of the squad only Root boasts a Test batting average over 40, which Taylor said was a “big concern”.

“They’re going to need Rory Burns to play like he did in 2019,” he explained.

“He’s not the most orthodox looking player, but he’s tough minded, he knows his limitations and he plays to that. He won’t be easy to get out.

“The one positive for England is that Joe Root is probably in the best form of his career right now, he’s made six hundreds already this year.”

The 2019 series turned on the performances of Stokes, who made 441 runs at 55, and also chipped in with eight wickets.

“His absence is massive, there’s no doubt he’s the biggest loss, much bigger than Jofra Archer,” Taylor said.

“You look at 2019, if Stokes doesn’t play, or doesn’t play as well, Australia probably wins 3-0, or even 4-0.

“That’s the sort of impact he has, he’s the sort of guy who can change a game batting at five or six, and it’s the same with the ball.”

Taylor, who captained Australia to Ashes wins in 1994-95, 1997 and 1998-99, wouldn’t be drawn on a series result, but noted that the opening match of the series will be crucial.

“It’s the same thing that we talk about whenever a touring side comes here, they need to start well at the Gabba,” he explained.

“Australia will start favourites, but they need to look at how they can improve from what happened against India last summer.

“I don’t think Australia is a shoe-in, although they’ll start short-priced favourites.”

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