England are in desperate need of some good news in the build up to the Ashes and ECB chief Tom Harrison may have delivered a timely boost.
Preparations for the showdown with Australia have been blighted by the absence of key all-rounder Ben Stokes and injuries to Steven Finn and Moeen Ali.
Stokes remains in England due to his alleged involvement in a fight outside a nightclub in Bristol in September with many observers arguing Joe Root’s men have no chance of retaining the urn without the Durham star.
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While Stokes will definitely miss the first Test in Brisbane on November 23 pending the outcome of a police investigation but could still play some part in the series according to The Times.
“The ECB appeared to open the possibility of Ben Stokes featuring in the Ashes when chief executive Tom Harrison said yesterday that the all-rounder could “rehabilitate his reputation on the field”.
“Harrison’s comments seemed to indicate that if Stokes is not charged by the police, then the ECB’s disciplinary process, which will commence after the police have made their decision, may result in the possibility that Stokes could, at some point, be part of the Ashes tour.”
Stokes was one of England’s few successes in England’s last Ashes series in Australia when Alistair Cook’s men were whitewashed 5-0.
His importance to the team has only grown in the four years since and West Indies legend Sir Viv Richards told The Sun that England don’t stand a chance without him.
Richards said: “I’m a fan of Ben Stokes. It will be quite crucial [to have him] in Australia. Let me say this, without Ben Stokes the English team is going to look like kittens in my opinion.”
That view was echoed by former Australia seamer Glenn McGrath on BBC Radio Five Live.
“He’s an incredible player - he fills two spots in one. If he doesn’t come out, that’s a big loss to England”.
“He’s an enforcer within the team and that’s fine on the field as long as it stays there. Who would be the enforcer in his shoes?
Finn – who was originally a late addition to the squad in place of Stokes – has now been sent home due to a knee injury. Surrey’s Tom Curran has got the nod over Liam Plunkett to replace him with The Guardian pointing out it could be a risk to throw a player untested at Test level straight into an Ashes series.
“The selection of Curran over the more experienced Plunkett gives England’s bowling reserves a green tinge. Curran bats well and impressed hugely on his international white-ball debut. He will compete with Jake Ball and Craig Overton, who have only three caps between them, for a spot in England’s Test side at the Gabba.”
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