Magellan Ashes 2017-18
UK press mulls Stokes penalty, Ashes void
British media considers potential replacements for under-siege allrounder as fallout from alleged Bristol incident continues
30 September 2017, 03:02 PM AEST
The Ashes future remains clouded for besieged allrounder Ben Stokes but speculation on who could fill the void in the England line-up has already begun.
Stokes and teammate Alex Hales remain suspended from international cricket "until further notice" by the ECB, with the pair to face internal disciplinary procedures after their alleged involvement in a street fight in Bristol in the early hours of last Monday that left a 27-year-old man in hospital with facial injuries.
British media, full of pessimism about Stokes' chances of boarding the plan to Australia, have begun the unenviable search for the replacement of a player that averages 35.72 with the bat and 33.93 with the ball in Test cricket.
Reportedly in the mix should Stokes be confirmed out of the Magellan Ashes is Essex batsman Tom Westley, who was dropped from the Test squad in England's original touring party.
Westley played five Tests for England in their summer against South Africa and West Indies, scoring 193 runs at 24.12 and a strike rate of 42.6.
In a decade of first-class cricket, he averages 36.67 and has more than 8000 runs in 149 matches.
Another option suggested is Lancashire big-hitter Liam Livingstone, who played two early-season T20 matches against South Africa, underwhelming with 16 and 0.
However, he averaged 47.23 in the County Championship this season as Lancashire finished runners-up.
Livingstone scored 803 runs, with two centuries – including a high of 224 – in 11 matches, and added another century for the England Lions against South Africa A in a 50-over match. He also took seven wickets – including a career-best 6-52 – but averaged 49.28 with the ball in the County Championship.
Samit Patel's name has also been suggested but the Nottinghamshire allrounder – who has played six Tests, all in Asia – barely figured in squad selection talk before Stokes' alleged misdemeanours.
But Stokes has received further backing that he could have a "massive impact" for England this summer if he plays in the five-Test series Down Under.
Injured England bowler Toby Roland-Jones, who will miss the Ashes with stress fractures in his back, joined the likes of James Vince and Graeme Swann in backing the allrounder.
"On the pitch I don't see whatever gets thrown at him being an issue to be honest," Roland-Jones told the BBC.
"Knowing him a little bit, as I do, I would have no problems about him going over there and still being able to perform and having a massive impact for that England team."
The fallout from Stokes' alleged involvement in the Bristol fracas continues in England, with tabloid revelations of a second video in which he appeared to imitate the disabled son a British glamour model and reality TV star during his night out in Bristol.
And The Sun, which first published the video that allegedly shows Stokes in the street fight, claimed one of the men on the opposing side of the stoush was a British Army veteran who served in Afghanistan.
The Avon & Somerset Police issued a statement that confirmed "investigations are ongoing" with an appeal for two men who witnessed the altercation to come forward.
APPEAL: We want to speak to two men who may have info about a disorder in #CliftonTriangle #Bristol. Can you help? Details below. pic.twitter.com/4EPUGHTkIj— Avon&Somerset Police (@ASPolice) September 29, 2017
And England teammate Jos Buttler's stag do celebrations in Amsterdam will take place without his national playing partners with Joe Root and Stuart Broad among those reported to have pulled out of the trip, apparently on the advice of England director of cricket Andrew Strauss.
Respected veteran Telegraph cricket writer Scyld Berry called on England to ban Stokes for not just the Magellan Ashes but the limited-overs series with Australia and New Zealand to follow.
"Provided the man who appears to be Stokes in the released video is indeed him, he deserves to be suspended for at least three months – to miss the Ashes and England's one-day series in Australia – whatever happens in the legal process," Berry wrote.
"If the legal process culminates in Stokes being charged and convicted of a criminal offence, the ECB should extend his ban to cover the whole English off-season.
"No tour of New Zealand, the land of his birth; no Indian Premier League, the source of his unrivalled income as an English cricketer. It should be next spring when Stokes starts to play again, after all the necessary counselling, and with a clean sheet. Such a ban would be simple justice."
Stokes, the Test vice-captain, was named in England's Ashes squad announced Wednesday, and reportedly broke a finger during the alleged incident that led to his arrest on suspicion of causing actual bodily harm.
The 26-year-old was released without charge on Monday but remains under investigation.
"Ben Stokes and Alex Hales will not be considered for selection for England international matches until further notice," the ECB's latest statement reads.
"Each remains on full pay pending further ECB investigation and the ongoing Police investigation into an incident in Bristol in the early hours of Monday 25 September.
"Andrew Strauss, Director of England Cricket, will today (Thursday) refer the internal disciplinary procedure for these two players to the Cricket Discipline Commission, chaired by Tim O'Gorman.
"These decisions, fully supported by ECB Chairman Colin Graves, were made following the release of footage viewed by ECB for the first time on Wednesday night."