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Stokes set for Ashes despite nightclub fracas

Cricket

England will press ahead with their Ashes squad announcement despite the arrest of vice-captain Ben Stokes outside a nightclub in Bristol.

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Stokes will sit out a one-day international against the West Indies tonight, Australian time, after he was arrested with sometime teammate Alex Hales on suspicion of causing actual bodily harm after an incident in Bristol, according to police and the team.

“There’s not actually a lot I can tell you… probably the most relevant thing for us at the moment is that Ben and Alex won’t be available for tomorrow’s game for selection so it does leave two spots up for grabs,”one-day captain Eion Morgan told reporters.

A man was hospitalised with facial injuries after the incident, which occurred after Stokes played in England’s one-day win over the West Indies at the Bristol County Ground.

In a statement, the England and Wales Cricket Board said Stokes was detained early Monday (local time) but was released without charge in the evening.

The ECB said Hales returned to Bristol yesterday to help police with the investigation.

 

In an interview on Sky Sports News, ECB director Andrew Strauss added: “You will understand we can’t offer any further details on this at this point and that we will provide updates when we have updates and information to give.”

Strauss added the Ashes squad would be named as planned tonight, Australian time, and that “the selectors have been instructed to select the Ashes squad based on form and fitness”.

Stokes has found himself at the centre of unbecoming incidents in the past, starting in 2011 when he was arrested for obstructing police on a night out and ultimately cautioned.

The following year saw him sent home from an England Lions tour in Australia, alongside team-mate Matt Coles, for repeatedly flouting rules on late-night drinking.

England were made to do without the all-rounder at the 2014 World T20 after he punched a dressing-room locker in Barbados in frustration at a run of poor form, breaking his hand.

In 2016, Stokes appeared at Northallerton Magistrates Court after being convicted of speeding for a fourth time.

On Strauss’s statement, though, the Ashes involvement of the key all-rounder can still be taken as read.

Alex Hales, like Stokes omitted from England’s fourth ODI against the West Indies after returning to Bristol to provide witness evidence about the disorder, was an unlikely inclusion in England’s winter squad in any case.

The selectors are therefore left to stick to more familiar deliberations, focusing most obviously on this summer’s flaky top-order.

The combined efforts of Tom Westley, Dawid Malan and opener Mark Stoneman – the latest in a line of 12 openers to partner Alastair Cook since Strauss’ retirement five years ago – have been unconvincing.

The selectors’ solution may well be to sacrifice one and instead accommodate a pick each for captain and coach in a 17-man squad, which would mean the return of Gary Ballance and James Vince.

Which of them is most suited to batting in likely fall guy Westley’s position at number three is a moot point that could yet result in Joe Root’s eventual re-elevation from four – where he has flourished of late.

Vince’s return to the reckoning owes much to the travails of others rather than an especially prolific summer with Hampshire, and statistically in his Test career to date his claims are inferior to many others.

An average of 19.27 in seven Tests up to August last year trails those of Westley, Malan and white-ball opener Hales.

Trevor Bayliss’ advocacy can only help Vince’s case, however, along with his right-handedness if England do decide it is Westley they wish to replace.

Strength in depth is critical for five Ashes Tests, and England appear likely to take two specialist seam-bowling understudies as well as uncapped leg-spinner Mason Crane who played for NSW last year.

They will be tempted to include the out-and-out pace of Mark Wood, despite doubts over his recovery from a heel problem, and Jake Ball may edge out Steven Finn and the uncapped Craig Overton.

-PA

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