Johnson's verdict on Stokes-less Ashes

Former Aussie tearaway with a surprising assessment of both team's chances, with or without England's controversial allrounder

The chief architect of Australia's 2013-14 Ashes whitewash of England believes Joe Root's team can retain the urn this summer even without superstar allrounder Ben Stokes.

Mitchell Johnson, who tore through England four years ago with 37 wickets and played a key part in the dismantling of a successful side, said neither side had been particularly outstanding of late, and the Australians would be playing a dangerous game if they were to assume the series was theirs if Stokes is absent.

The involvement of the England firebrand in the series is at this stage unknown, although he won't be on the plane when the squad flies to Australia next week; the 26-year-old remains suspended from England duty while the police investigation of his alleged involvement in a late-night brawl continues.

"I don't think you can read too much into what people are commenting on 'No Stokes, no England'," Johnson said on BBC Radio Five.

"I think England can win without him. I think at a contest at that high level, anyone can win.

"If you're Australia, you don't want to be thinking they can't win because Stokes isn't there – that can bite you in the backside pretty quickly."

"Best lead-in for an Ashes we've ever had"

Johnson is better versed than most in the fickleness of Ashes fate.

In 2009 he was tormented by the Barmy Army as he lost his rhythm and run-up during a fraught campaign.

A little over four years on, he destroyed England's batting line-up, combining a devastating barrage of short-pitched bowling with an ability to hit the stumps incessantly.

In the intervening years, Australia's performances have been hot and cold, with a Test series defeat at home to South Africa last summer part of five consecutive losses.

England, meanwhile, lost a Test match at home to West Indies after beating South Africa 3-1 in their recent home summer.

Johnson remains unimpressed with the form of the two Ashes rivals but believes Australia's pace attack in friendly conditions could prove the difference.

"I'm still confident that Australia can win the series, but the performances recently haven't been great from both sides," Johnson added.

"The wickets are a little bouncier and faster, so some of these new guys might find it harder, and that's where the Australian bowling attack is strong."

2017-18 International Fixtures:

Magellan Ashes Series

First Test Gabba, November 23-27. Buy tickets

Second Test Adelaide Oval, December 2-6 (Day-Night). Buy tickets

Third Test WACA Ground, December 14-18. Buy tickets

Fourth Test MCG, December 26-30. Buy tickets

Fifth Test SCG, January 4-8 (Pink Test). Buy tickets

ODI Series v England

First ODI MCG, January 14. Buy tickets

Second ODI Gabba, January 19. Buy tickets

Third ODI SCG, January 21. Buy tickets

Fourth ODI Adelaide Oval, January 26. Buy tickets

Fifth ODI Perth TBC, January 28. Join the ACF

Prime Minister's XI

PM's XI v England Manuka Oval, February 2. Buy tickets

T20 trans-Tasman Tri-Series

First T20I Australia v NZ, SCG, February 3. Buy tickets

Second T20I – Australia v England, Blundstone Arena, February 7. Buy tickets

Third T20I – Australia v England, MCG, February 10. Buy tickets

Fourth T20I – NZ v England, Wellington, February 13

Fifth T20I – NZ v Australia, Eden Park, February 16

Sixth T20I – NZ v England, Seddon Park, February 18

Final – TBC, Eden Park, February 21