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Curfew a possibility for England's Ashes squad as bad boy Stokes holds place

Cricket

Ben Stokes remains England’s vice-captain but ongoing investigations into the firebrand’s latest misdeed means his Ashes hopes are still up in the air.

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Stokes was included in England’s 16-man squad for the five-Test series that starts in Brisbane on November 23.

But last night’s announcement came with an asterisk from the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), who continue to probe the late-night scuffle that broke Stokes’ right hand and battered his nation’s Ashes plans.

Selectors expect the gifted allrounder to be physically fit for the first Test after scans confirmed a minor fracture.

The 26-year-old remains under investigation on suspicion of causing actual bodily harm following an incident at a Bristol bar that left a man hospitalised with facial injuries.

He was arrested then released without charge early on Monday morning (Monday night, Australian time). Inquiries – from both ECB and the police – are ongoing.

“Right now is not the time to comment on what may or may not happen from a disciplinary point of view,” England’s director of cricket Andrew Strauss said.

“We can’t comment on the police investigation.

“There is a formal (ECB) disciplinary process and it’s important that is followed… it’s important that we give ourselves time to do it properly.

“I’m just beginning to get a bit of a picture as to what went on… I am speaking to the players individually to get their account.”

Former England captains Nasser Hussain and Michael Vaughan were far more critical of Stokes, who has struggled to shed the ‘bad boy’ image throughout a career studded with on-field spats and off-field indiscretions.

“It will be wrong to pre-judge,” Strauss said.

But England coach Trevor Bayliss says he has no plans to strip Stokes of the vice-captaincy following the firebrand’s latest indiscretion, while the Australian admits he may need to look at introducing an Ashes curfew.

“A few of the guys being out in the middle of a series was very unprofessional,” Bayliss told Sky Sports.

“Ben is a leader within the group when it comes to cricket – there is no denying it.

“I’m sure there will be some investigations going forward but at the moment I’m quite happy for him to be vice-captain.”

Bayliss, a former NSW and Sydney Sixers coach, indicated England will “be looking into” the merits of a curfew in response to the incident.

“I’ve been with teams before when we’ve had curfews and that doesn’t work,” Bayliss said.

“Whichever way you go about it, a lot of the responsibility comes back onto the players – they’re adults.”

England ODI and Twenty20 skipper Eoin Morgan admits they still need to address their policy on player behaviour off the field.

“It’s never been an area of concern in the past,” he said.

“We’ve always policed it ourselves, (but) it’s something we’re going to look into towards the future – in light of what’s happened – because we need to look after each other as a team.

“It’s not a case of individuals going separate ways. We all normally stick together, so we’ll have to put something in place that doesn’t leave us in the position we are at the moment.”

The Stokes saga took the shine off a touring party that featured three uncapped players.

Fast bowler Craig Overton, back-up wicketkeeper Ben Foakes and legspinner Mason Crane, who played for NSW during the most recent Sheffield Shield season, are all in line to make Test debuts against Australia.

Crane, 20, was selected as one of two specialist spinners alongside Moeen Ali.

Batsmen James Vince and Gary Ballance were recalled despite their previous unconvincing performances in England’s fragile middle order.

Vince returns to the squad for the first time since last August and Ballance is back after suffering a fractured finger in July in the second Test against South Africa.

Express paceman Mark Wood was considered too much of a fitness gamble, while fellow quick Toby Roland-Jones was ruled out with the stress fracture of his back.

ENGLAND 16-MAN ASHES SQUAD:

Joe Root (capt), Alastair Cook, Mark Stoneman, Dawid Malan, Gary Ballance, James Vince, Ben Stokes, Jonny Bairstow, Ben Foakes, Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes, Stuart Broad, James Anderson, Jake Ball, Mason Crane, Craig Overton.

-AAP

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