Men's Ashes 2021-22
'I'm ready for Australia': Stokes added to Ashes squad
England allrounder declares he's recovered from a mental health break and finger injury to join the Ashes tour from the outset
25 October 2021, 08:31 PM AEST
England have dropped a pre-Ashes bombshell by adding talismanic allrounder Ben Stokes to their Test squad to travel to Australia this summer.
Stokes looked set to miss his second consecutive away Ashes tour after initially being left out of the 17-player touring party having taken a break from the game for mental health reasons, while he has also recently undergone surgery on his fractured left index finger.
But on Monday England declared the 30-year-old is "ready to return to competitive cricket" after being cleared by medicos in what shapes as a huge boost for the visitors' hopes of reclaiming the urn.
"I had a break to prioritise my mental wellbeing and I got my finger sorted," said Stokes, who will depart for Australia next week.
"I am looking forward to seeing my mates and being on the field with them. I'm ready for Australia."
Stokes, not part of England's T20 World Cup squad, missed the entire home Test series against India earlier this year and has not played any cricket since featuring in two Hundred games in July.
His initial omission from the Ashes squad combined with him unveiling a series of videos on his social media pages of his return to training in recent weeks had the potential to create a second consecutive Ashes tour for England overshadowed by the saga of his potential return.
A Stokes-less England lost 4-0 in 2017-18 as the allrounder faced an affray charge following a late-night brawl in Bristol, to which he was eventually found not guilty.
Four years on, Stokes has remained in contact with the England cricket officials after taking an indefinite break from the game to prioritise his mental well-being.
"Following a very successful operation on his finger and several conversations over the last few weeks between Ben and I, our medical staff and his management team, Ben called me to say he was ready to return to cricket and was excited about the prospect of playing a significant role in the Ashes series," said cricket director Ashley Giles.
"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 and, in particular, Chris (Silverwood), Joe (Root) and the rest of the players."
Australians Josh Hazlewood and Nathan Lyon had both said in recent days they hoped Stokes would make the trip out.
"You want their best team here. I'm happy if he comes out," Hazlewood said yesterday.
In the absence of pace ace Jofra Archer who is out of the World Cup and Ashes through injury, Joe Root's side will need all the firepower they can get their hands on if they hope to defeat Australia this summer.
While the Aussies have not lost a Test to England on their home shores in a decade, they are well aware of Stokes' match-winning capabilities.
The left-hander had a breakout tour in 2013-14 and was a rare shining light in an otherwise dismal showing during the 5-0 clean sweep, striking a maiden century at the WACA Ground in just his second Test against a formidable attack led by Mitchell Johnson at the peak of his powers.
He then played an important role in England's 2015 series win but saved his best for the ensuing campaign in the United Kingdom in 2019.
Stokes' 135 not out at Headingley that singlehandedly pulled off a one-wicket victory is regarded as one of the finest individual Test performances of all time.
With two unbeaten tons for the series, he finished it as his side's highest run-getter in a 2-2 draw.
But Giles suggested England may have to gradually reintroduce Stokes back to the longest format.
"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," said Giles.
"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."
England's Test and Lions squad players will quarantine for a fortnight in Queensland from next week before the Ashes gets underway at the Gabba on December 8.
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