Men's Ashes 2021-22
Bowling fitness a key to Stokes' Ashes impact: Root
Getting Ben Stokes ready for Test cricket will be one of England's main priorities when they arrive in Australia later this week
3 November 2021, 08:44 AM AEST
Skipper Joe Root says getting Ben Stokes match fit with the ball will be among the allrounder's key priorities when England's Ashes squad lands in Australia this week.
Root, Stokes and England's other red-ball specialists start their tour on Friday, checking into a Gold Coast resort to quarantine.
Players will be confined to their individual rooms for three days before getting the green light to train at Metricon Stadium, as per the exemptions signed off by the Queensland government.
Stokes, initially left out of England's touring party because of a finger injury and mental-health reasons, confirmed last week he would make the trip.
The 30-year-old hasn't played at any level since July but recently resumed batting and bowling in the nets and will be keen to make the most of England's two warm-up matches.
Root predicted that building up the bowling fitness of the allrounder, whose heroics at Headingley two years ago included a momentum-shifting marathon spell, will be the biggest hurdle before the five-Test series begins in Brisbane on December 8.
"He's been netting properly, can hit balls properly again," Root said.
"One of the things that we're going to have to manage well is making sure that workloads are up with ball in hand and that he doesn't go in light of work.
"He's been out of the game for a long time, had a serious injury and he's got a lot of work to do to get himself back to the Ben Stokes we all know.
"But if there's one thing you can bet on with Ben, he'll do everything he can to ready himself and put in performances which help England win games of cricket."
The late addition of Stokes has boosted the visitors' hopes of reclaiming the urn, while adding another level of hype to the iconic series.
He missed the corresponding 2017-18 tour through suspension, having later been found not guilty of affray, then wrote himself into Ashes folklore with that stunning match-winning knock in Leeds in 2019.
Root noted he was keen to manage expectations regarding the fit-again superstar, but also didn't attempt to hide the seismic effect of Stokes' inclusion as England pursue their first Test series win in Australia since 2010-11.
"We look at how he performed in his debut series out there (in 2013-14)," Root said.
"That hundred he scored (in Perth) and the five-for in the last Test match (in Sydney), it shows he can perform in those conditions and those sort of wickets suit the style of player he is.
"He's a massive asset in many respects.
"First and foremost his performances on the field, especially with what he's done against Australia in the recent past.
"But also the way he plays his cricket ... as well as balancing the side.
"He's a brilliant leader in the dressing room and people follow him."
Vodafone Men's Ashes v England
First Test: December 8-12, The Gabba
Second Test: December 16-20, Adelaide Oval
Third Test: December 26-30, MCG
Fourth Test: January 5-9, SCG
Fifth Test: January 14-18, Perth Stadium