There is no doubt that excitement is steadily building towards the Ashes series held later this year. The traditional battle between England and Australia is sure to produces moments of sheer guts, excitement, and glory. Demand for cricket equipment is expected to go through the roof during the Ashes, as children up and down the land pretend to be their favourite cricketers. With several high profile names having retired since the last Ashes series, the stage is set for some new heroes to put on their cricket pads and write their names down in history. Whilst you gather your cricket bats in preparation for the series, here are five England players who could play a key role in retaining the Ashes this year.

1. Alastair Cook
The 28 year old right handed opening batsman will be experiencing his first Ashes as England captain. However, if his displays in India are anything to go by, the Aussies should be very afraid indeed. Cook is the leading scorer of centuries for England, and is also the youngest Englishman to reach 5000 test runs. He made the winning catch of the 2009 Ashes series, and is set to make an even bigger contribution as Captain during the 2013 series.

2. James “Jimmy” Anderson
James has come a long way from his early days of dyed hair and pop star style comparisons. The English fast bowler has perfected his craft and is currently the number 3 bowler in the ICC rankings. Having played in over 50 test matches, the lad from Burnley is a truly dangerous bowler who has taken the wickets of some of the biggest names in world cricket. He is sure to cause the Aussie batsmen a whole load of trouble during this Ashes series.

3. Kevin Pietersen
Love him or hate him, there is no ignoring the talent of Kevin Pietersen. Much of England’s attempt to retain their Ashes title will rest on which Kevin Pietersen decides to turn up. If it’s the sulky Pietersen who has had numerous disputes with the ECB management and fellow teammates, England may struggle. However, if it is the swash buckling batting master capable of hitting his opponents into Oblivion on the field, Australia will have a major problem indeed.

4. Stuart Broad
Stuart Broad is a fine bowler who is beginning to show true signs of becoming a dangerous all-rounder. Whilst he batting consistency has been criticised in the past, the tall fast bowler may see the Ashes as a chance to stamp his full authority on the game. There will be no surprise if Broad manages to achieve a few five wicket hauls in the series, and his batting abilities will be crucial in helping England collect extra runs.

5. Ian Bell
Having burst onto the scene at an early age, Ian Bell is a prime example of a batsman with near faultless batting technique. As England’s highest test scorer in 2011, Bell will be expecting to add to his batting records in 2013.