Australia v England T20: what will Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler bring to squad and who will miss out on a place?

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Harry Brook and Phil Salt likely victims as Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler return to England T20 action

England have just completed their historic T20 series in Pakistan, coming away with a 4-3 win over their hosts.

The thrilling series went down to the final match, but ultimately England won easily after Dawid Malan finally bounced back to the top of his game when it mattered.

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He scored 78* and was helped by the Player of the Series Harry Brook as the pair took England to an unassailable 209/3.

There have been several factors to what has made this such a spectacular series. The first of which being the historic nature of playing in the country for the first time in 17 years, as well as each six that was hit and each wicket taken meaning more money securing donations to the ongoing flood crisis in Pakistan.

However, from an England perspective, what seemed to shine through the most from this extravaganza of cricket was each match had a different match-winner, with all members of the squad excelling at various points on the tour.

It begs the question: what can the returning members of the squad bring and who is set to miss out on a place in Australia?

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White-ball captain Jos Buttler will be returning to his role when the squad arrives Down Under and both Liam Livingstone and red-ball captain Ben Stokes are expected to join up - Livingstone has been recovering from an injury, while Stokes has been rested after a frantic summer of Test and ODI cricket.

There is no doubt that these figures could well be crucial to England’s success as the Australia series and T20 World Cup looms.

Stokes brings with him a vast wealth of experience and leadership, offering back-up to both Moeen Ali and Jos Buttler.

Alex Hales playing for Melbourne Renegades in Big Bash LeagueAlex Hales playing for Melbourne Renegades in Big Bash League
Alex Hales playing for Melbourne Renegades in Big Bash League | Getty Images

When asked whether Buttler will continue to keep wicket on his return, England’s white-ball coach Matthew Mott said to The Cricketer magazine: “If (Buttler) is fully fit, he’ll definitely look to keep. He’s obviously done that for a while; he had the opportunity in The Hundred to see a different side of it.

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“He didn’t see a great advantage from there, and I think when you’ve got the likes of (Moeen Ali) and Stokes in the field, he can offload a little bit of that leadership.”

These words from Mott not only indicate that Stokes is set to be a first choice option when he returns, but that his presence will bring an additional and much needed level of leadership while Buttler is positioned behind the stumps.

Mott also added: “Liam (Livingstone) is tracking well. He’ll be fine - he’s just got to get some miles in the legs, and he should be right for the start when we get out there.”

With Buttler, Stokes and Livingstone all back in the mix and undoubtedly set to feature in the first match they’re able, there will be several players stressing this could mean the end of their chances to play.

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With Buttler back in the squad it seems obvious that Phil Salt will face the repercussions.

Alex Hales, the last minute addition following Bairstow’s injury, has an expansive knowledge of Australian pitches and has been one of the best batters in the Australian Big Bash in previous years; keeping him in as an opener seems a given.

However, Salt was far from a disappointment in Pakistan and produced a sensational knock in the sixth match (88* off 41 balls) that saw England level the series just in time.

He also kept wicket sharply and consistently throughout the series, but there’s no way he will be favoured over the returning captain.

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The loss of Salt will be disappointing (not least because he produced one of the best cricket headlines in recent memory: ‘Salt peppers Pakistan’ - thank you The Times), but because he was a sure guarantee at the top of the order, producing powerful, while sometimes brief, opening spells that set up the side well for a strong score.

The second dilemma is that of Harry Brook.

Brook has been the first choice for middle-order batters while out in Pakistan, featuring in every match and winning the Player of the Series award for his never-ending match-winning knocks.

Harry Brook won ‘Player of the Series’ after heroics in PakistanHarry Brook won ‘Player of the Series’ after heroics in Pakistan
Harry Brook won ‘Player of the Series’ after heroics in Pakistan | Getty Images

However, with Stokes back in the mix, the young hero may well be part become the result of the inevitable cull.

It’s hard to not pick Stokes - let’s face it, World Cups are his forte - but does this mean Brook must be mercilessly sacrified, a player who confirmed his status as a future superstar in the recent seven-match epic?

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If not Brook, who else will feel the effects of Stokes’ return?

The most obvious second option would be to omit Livingstone from the first-choice squad - another seemingly unlikely choice.

Livingstone was the 2021 The Hundred star and was fundamental in England’s early success at last year’s T20 World Cup in the UAE and Oman - it would seem dubious to leave out such a white-ball superstar in favour of a 23-year-old newcomer.

The upcoming series against Australia will once again feel like a warm-up exercise with the real drama kicking off later in the month. However, that doesn’t make the series any less important as the squad choices for the three-match series could well signal what to expect when England take on the world’s best T20 teams in October.

Australia and England begin their series on Sunday 9 October 2022 and the matches will be available to watch on BT Sport.

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