Talismanic all-rounder Ben Stokes boosts England's Ashes cause

Staff Reporter 2021-10-25, 11:10pm Cricket

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LONDON - Talismanic all-rounder Ben Stokes has been
added to the England squad for the tour of Australia later this year,
delivering a huge boost in their bid to reclaim the Ashes.

   The 30-year-old said he is refreshed after taking time out from the game
both for his mental health and also underwent two operations on a fractured
left index finger.

   "I had a break to prioritise my mental wellbeing and I got my finger
sorted," said Stokes in an England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) statement
Monday.

   "I am looking forward to seeing my mates and being on the field with them.
I'm ready for Australia."

   Ashley Giles, managing director of England's Men's cricket, said Stokes's
return to the squad was terrific news but he added due to lack of game time
they needed to move cautiously.

   "Time and time again, Ben has demonstrated how important he is to the
England team and having him available for the Ashes series is excellent news
for all of us.

   "Having not played for some time, we will move forward cautiously over the
next few weeks to ensure he is fully prepared across all facets of his game.

   "Ahead of a very busy period of cricket, we continue to remain mindful of
the stresses on all our personnel, and our primary focus continues to be the
wellbeing of all of our players and support staff."

   Stokes has not played for England since July, when he cut short his injury
rehabilitation to captain the one-day side against Pakistan at short notice
following a coronavirus outbreak.

   He was not included for the ongoing Twenty20 World Cup and was left out of
England's initial Ashes squad.

   The tour had been the subject of tense negotiations after England's
players and their families expressed concerns over tough Covid quarantine
restrictions in Australia.

   However, the Australians will now be on notice that England's most likely
match-winner will be facing them.

   "It is obviously great news for England as Ben Stokes is virtually
irreplaceable in any format. He's one of the great all-rounders in world
cricket at the moment," said former England captain Nasser Hussain.

   "But more importantly it's great news for Ben Stokes, both physically and
mentally."

   Stokes produced one of the most memorable Test innings to steer England to
victory in the third Test of the 2019 Ashes series.

   He scored an unbeaten 135 at Headingley to level the series -- a few
months after he had played a pivotal role in England's 50 over World Cup
success.

   Stokes will depart with the Test specialists and the reserve Lions squad
on November 4.

   The first of the five-Test series begins on December 8 in Brisbane.

   England have won only one Ashes series in Australia since 1986/87 and have
failed to even win a Test match in their last two trips down under. BSS/AFP