London: Former England captain Nasser Hussain reckons that England lack the X-factor in their bowling attack and the squad the selectors have picked for the upcoming Ashes looks to be a predictable squad with no uncapped players or surprise selections that can, at times, come in handy in such long tours.

Naming pacer Saqib Mahmood and leg-spinner Matt Parkinson as his surprise picks, Hussain explained that in Australian conditions Mahmood would have been a great addition to the team as his skiddy reverse swing can add an element of variation to the attack and Parkinson’s leg-spin would have meant Root had the option of wrist spin available to him.

On Sunday, England named a full-strength 17-man squad for the Ashes tour, set to begin from December 8 at the Gabba.

“England have picked a very predictable Ashes squad, avoiding selecting any uncapped players and refusing to take any kind of risk. The two surprises for me were overlooking Saqib Mahmood and Matt Parkinson. Saqib would have given a different element to the attack in Australian conditions with his skiddy reverse swing, in the absence of the pace of Jofra Archer and Olly Stone.

“And I would have gone for Parkinson’s leg-spin instead of Dom Bess. I would have liked a bit of wrist spin available to me as captain – if not Parkinson, then Mason Crane,” wrote Hussain in his column for Daily Mail on Monday.

The 53-year-old mentioned how Mahmood’s selection would have helped England. “The ball goes soft after 10-12 overs and does nothing after that, which is why Saqib would have provided variation.”

Hussain was surprised on batter Liam Livingstone not being named in the squad. “But Chris Silverwood and Joe Root like loyalty and consistency in selection, so have stuck with their two capped spinners. I’d also have taken a punt on Liam Livingstone, an in-your-face, confident cricketer in the mould of Kevin Pietersen and Ben Stokes. He’s someone who could take the attack to the opposition from his natural, middle-order position.”

But the big worry for England, according to Hussain, has been the continued absence of Ben Stokes, who is still on a break from the game.

“The absence of Stokes is the biggest concern. It gives England a massive selection headache. Without him, it will be a nightmare trying to balance the side and I envisage England going into matches with an all-seam attack backed up by Root’s off-spin.

“Without someone of Stokes’s all-round calibre, you are either sacrificing a batsman and creating a long tail, or muddling through with a four-man attack including a frontline spinner. With the Kookaburra ball, that is a daunting prospect.”

Hussain concluded by saying that managing pacer Mark Wood will be very important for England from raw pace perspective. “A lack of ‘X factor’ in the bowling attack is a bit of a worry and they’ll need to inject some pace, which means Mark Wood becomes a pivotal player. How they use him and how many games in a row he can play becomes vital. But history tells us that you cannot field a one-pace bowling unit of four right-arm medium-fast bowlers in Australian conditions.”

Hussain also said that scores of 300 can work in England, but not in Australia. England haven’t won an Ashes series on Australian soil since the 3-1 win in 2010/11.

“You also need to score massive runs. In England, if you get 300 in the first innings, you are probably in the game. Get that score in Australia and you’re going to lose. It means the batting line-up has to churn out big runs and not leave the scoring to Root,” wrote Hussain in his column for Daily Mail on Monday.

Hussain thinks captain Joe Root, who is the top run-scorer in Test cricket this year with 1455 runs from 23 innings, will be eager to get his first century in the format in Australia apart from youngsters Ollie Pope and Zak Crawley.

“The England captain will want to contribute as a batter, of course, and is yet to score a Test hundred in Australia. But they have also backed younger players including Ollie Pope and Zak Crawley. Now is the time for them to deliver.”

Talking further about Crawley, Hussain said, “Australia is a brilliant place to bat. I never went on an Ashes tour worried about that side of things. England have a real belief in Crawley but his statistics, aside from his remarkable double hundred against Pakistan a couple of years ago, don’t back it up. He has a mediocre record for county and country. Yet if anyone had seen that big innings in isolation, they would have recognised his potential.”

The 53-year-old concluded by saying that if they need other players, England will not be scared of drafting players from the England Lions team, who will be in Australia at the same time as the men’s team for the Ashes.

“And potential is something Root will be able to call upon during the 11-week trip. Tours are not as rigid as they used to be and if the team management feel they need something different, such as Saqib, Parkinson or a different opener, they shouldn’t be afraid to draft in a player from the concurrent England Lions tour.”

(With IANS Inputs)