Selectors face tough calls
England's selectors must balance method with invention in the Ashes squad they will unveil on Monday lunchtime at Lord's.
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As the 17 likely to be named set out to make their own history - a fourth successive Ashes success was a prize last claimed in the 19th century - those who nominate them need go back only as far as England's last trip Down Under to know what will be required.
Tough calls had to be made mid-series before England won the Ashes in Australia for the first time in almost a quarter of a century - and to be able to do so, then and now, the right manpower must be on hand.
After victory in Adelaide at the start of December 2010, England lost Stuart Broad to a series-ending injury; after the score was then levelled by Australia in Perth, they decided Steven Finn had run out of puff.
As far as the WACA, as will be the case again this time, they had the security chest of the Performance Programme squad at relatively close quarters.
It was from the first-choice party, though, that they replaced Broad with Chris Tremlett - a like-for-like tall seamer on the bounciest pitch in the world - and then, after Australia had nonetheless levelled the series with two to play, summoned Tim Bresnan in place of Finn in Melbourne and Sydney.
Tremlett and Bresnan took 28 wickets between them.
History doubtless contains many more compelling vindications of a contingency plan, but memories of 2010/11 are a significant reference point to inform selection three years on.
Continuity in England's management will ensure that is the case and so it is the selectors who will try to cover all plausible eventualities with the squad they name at HQ.
At least nine of those who travelled to Australia last time, and have since played their part again this summer in retaining the Ashes, are sure to go again - including Bresnan, who will be given the opportunity to prove his fitness after a stress fracture in his back.
Young opener Joe Root can be confidently added to account for all but one of the probable XI for the first Test.
It is when identifying the deputies and understudies that England must be braver - and wiser.
The uncertainty over Bresnan means an extra seamer is non-negotiable - so there will be five frontliners, at least, with the option of pace-bowling all-rounders.
Boyd Rankin stands, literally, head and shoulders at the top of the queue - while both Ben Stokes and Chris Woakes are thought skilful enough to be able to bolster waning bowling and batting resources alike.
That just leaves the two trickiest decisions of the lot.
Who provides the back-up for off-spinner Graeme Swann and who is the best bet as an extra batsman?
Wicketkeeping cover has been provided by Jonny Bairstow in recent times, but after 12 Tests it is unclear whether he has done enough to establish himself too as a specialist middle-order batsman.
Jos Buttler, beginning to demonstrate more than potential in front of the stumps, is putting significant pressure on Bairstow's place - and Somerset houses another name which ought to merit serious consideration.
It may require a triumph of pragmatism over ego to recall Nick Compton, after he was dropped this summer to allow Root to be shunted up to the top of the order.
But if England do want to pick the batsman most likely to be able to bail them out, wherever adversity might strike, Compton - not Taylor, Bopara or Carberry - is his name.
More common sense will be needed to sort the final selection puzzle, that of the second spinner.
By press consensus, it seems Monty Panesar is back in the frame despite his drunken aberrations in Brighton and subsequently swift departure from Sussex last month. It will take a leap of faith to trust the slow left-armer to behave for three months away from home, especially because he is likely to have plenty of time on his hands if Swann stays in good health.
In the circumstances, the contrastingly reliable off-spinner James Tredwell - even after being targeted by Australia in the NatWest Series - will be a safer choice.
Possible England Ashes squad: AN Cook (Captain), JE Root, IJL Trott, KP Pietersen, IR Bell, BA Stokes, MJ Prior (wkt), TT Bresnan, SCJ Broad, GP Swann, JM Anderson, JC Buttler (wkt), WB Rankin, JC Tredwell, NRD Compton, ST Finn, CR Woakes.