In Focus

‘Now the theatre begins’: Aussies react to Ben Stokes’s Ashes inclusion

Star all-rounder gives England a major boost ahead of the series down under

England star Ben Stokes has declared that he is fit and ready to face Australia in this winter’s Ashes series. The all-rounder was not in the initial England squad when it was announced two weeks ago, but he has now been added for the tour down under. 

After a second operation on a fractured left index finger, and time away to prioritise his mental wellbeing, Stokes has been given the all-clear to resume training. The 30-year-old said he is “looking forward to seeing my mates and being on the field with them - I’m ready for Australia”.

“Time and time again, Ben has demonstrated how important he is to the England team,” said Ashley Giles, managing director of England Men’s Cricket. “Having him available for the Ashes series is excellent news for all of us.”

Stokes, who has not played any competitive cricket since late July, produced one of the “most memorable Test innings” to steer England to victory in the third Test of the 2019 Ashes series, said Fox Cricket’s Ben Waterworth. “The Australians will now be on notice that England’s most likely match-winner will be facing them.” 

Dynamic has changed

When England announced their squad without Stokes’s name on the list it was not a line-up to strike fear into Australia, said Nick Hoult in The Daily Telegraph. And it made a victory down under – already a “once-in-a-generation” occurrence – an ever more remote possibility.

However, Stokes’s “bombshell selection” is a major boost, “not only for England, but for the entire Ashes spectacle and narrative”, said Fox’s Waterworth. The “dynamic” of the series has “changed dramatically”. 

Former Australia Test wicket-keeper Brad Haddin agrees. “Now the theatre begins,” he said. “This is what you want, you want the best players playing in the Ashes series. This England team now will grow a leg.”

Brett Lee, the ex-Aussie quick, believes any side with a quality all-rounder will have “a lot better chance to beat Australia”. Stokes is a “genuine” fast bowler and “can bowl some decent gas too, so it’s fantastic”.

In a column for The Mirror Stokes said he was “buzzing” for the Ashes. “To be able to confirm to [England captain] Joe Root that I would be available to join the tour from the start after my second successful surgery on my finger was a great moment,” he wrote.

“I do realise Australia is one of the toughest places to tour, but also one of the greatest places to tour. I know what it is going to be like, especially the crowds, I’ve experienced it before and I say bring it on.”

Stokes will depart with the England Test specialists and the Lions squad on 4 November. The first Test of the five-match series starts on 8 December at the Gabba in Brisbane. 

The Ashes urn

Getty Images

England’s Test squad for the 2021-2022 Ashes tour 

Joe Root (Yorkshire, captain), James Anderson (Lancashire), Jonathan Bairstow (Yorkshire), Dom Bess (Yorkshire), Stuart Broad (Nottinghamshire), Rory Burns (Surrey), Jos Buttler (Lancashire), Zak Crawley (Kent), Haseeb Hameed (Nottinghamshire), Dan Lawrence (Essex), Jack Leach (Somerset), Dawid Malan (Yorkshire), Craig Overton (Somerset), Ollie Pope (Surrey), Ollie Robinson (Sussex), Ben Stokes (Durham), Chris Woakes (Warwickshire), Mark Wood (Durham)

Ashes Test fixtures
  • 8-12 December 2021: 1st Test at the Gabba, Brisbane
  • 16-20 December 2021: 2nd Test at the Adelaide Oval, Adelaide 
  • 26-30 December 2021: 3rd Test at the MCG, Melbourne
  • 5-9 January 2022: 4th Test at SCG, Sydney 
  • 14-18 January 2022: 5th Test at the Optus Stadium, Perth 

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