Cricket Opinion

Would A Ben Stokes Call-Up Save The Ashes For England?

When the England Cricket Board suspended Ben Stokes ahead of the Ashes, hundreds of fans responded by backing Australia to enjoy another whitewash Down Under.

Flickr / Ben Sutherland / CC

It could have been written off as gallows’ humour, as the odds were an ambitious 9/1, but those England fans may now be laughing all the way to the bank. Joe Root’s men are already 2-0 down in the five-test series and have been well beaten in both tests so far. England need to do something drastic to turn their fortunes around, and could be tempted to reintroduce Stokes to the fold. Could he save the Ashes?

Reinstating him would be a huge decision as he is still being investigated by Avon and Somerset Police on suspicion of assaulting a fellow reveller outside a Bristol nightclub. He was ruled out of the tour of Australia as selectors felt it would send out the wrong message to young fans. To call him up while he is still under investigation might be an ethically questionable move. The tour has already descended into a shambles, with Johnny Bairstow embroiled in a headbutt scandal and Ben Duckett suspended for pouring a drink on James Anderson. The powers that be have to be very careful about how they handle the Stokes situation because it the team is already fast becoming a national embarrassment.

However, he is still yet to be charged for an incident that occurred months ago, suggesting it is not an open and shut case and he may well find that nothing more comes of it. With that in mind, Stokes has been called up to the England ODI squad for the tour of Australia along with Alex Hales, who was with him on the night out.

Stokes was very much a part of England’s future plans then, and it would therefore make a great deal of sense to bring him into the Ashes squad ahead of the third test. A 5-0 whitewash might be even more embarrassing than the off the field farce, so reinstating him could at least help them avoid that.

Stokes is the world’s best all rounder and he would improve any team. Earlier this year he was snapped up for an IPL record fee of £1.7 million and he fully justified it with some sensational performances for Rising Pune Supergiants. It is understandable that Eoin Morgan would be desperate to have him in the 50 overs team as he is equally dynamic in ODIs. But he can also do an excellent job in test cricket and could have a huge impact on the Ashes if parachuted in to save the day

His talent is undeniable. Just last year he put South Africa to the sword with a magnificent 258, breaking a long list of records, including the fastest test double hundred by an England player and the most sixes in an innings by an England player in history. England have struggled to deal with the Australian attack’s pace and aggression thus far during the current series and Stokes would certainly make their batting line-up look a lot more formidable. He is more than capable of the sort of individual brilliance that can win test matches, and he has proved it on multiple occasions. Without him the England tail looks elongated and Mitchell Starc has been slicing through it with glee.

Stokes would also relieve the pressure on Anderson and Stuart Broad, who are being asked to do too much in the bowling department at their ages. Stokes has posted a video of himself bowling into the nets at full tilt this winter, reminding selectors that he is a potent weapon that can be called upon.

In the sports spread betting markets England are underdogs in the remaining matches in the series and that is down to a lack of aggression from the bowlers and a lack of composure from the batsmen. Stokes could help in both departments.

Stokes alone may not be enough to save the series, but he certainly would improve England’s chances and his mere presence could spark greater confidence in his misfiring teammates. England fans must be praying he gets the green light and is called up, as then we could really have a series on our hands.

Cricket Opinion

Five Reasons Australia Have The Edge Going Into The Ashes

The countdown is on to the most eagerly anticipated event of the cricketing calendar as the 2017/18 Ashes series begins in less than a month. Last time England visited Australia they were whitewashed and pessimism abounds among their fans right now. Australia are in a bullish mood going into the five-test series and will feel confident of regaining the Ashes as they will be spurred on by passionate home crowds. Here are five reasons why they can pull it off:

No Stokes, no Ashes

The tourists will be without talismanic all-rounder Ben Stokes, who has been suspended by the England and Wales Cricket Board. He is on police bail on suspicion of assaulting a fellow reveller outside a nightclub and will not travel to Australia for the tour. It is a devastating blow for England as he has emerged as their best player in recent times. Steve Smith rates him as one of the world’s greatest players and it is easy to see why he went for a world record fee in the last IPL auction.

England’s batting order looks lightweight without him and his absence will put too much pressure on bowlers Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad. Steve Waugh has already said that England cannot win without him and that seems to be the prevailing mood among pundits.

England fans think they will lose

The English have been lumping on their team to be whitewashed in the wake of the news that Stokes will not be heading Down Under. Oddschecker reported that more than 90% of series correct score bets from punters in England have gone on a 5-0 win to Australia. That is a pretty damning trend and it will not exactly fill Joe Root’s team with confidence going into the series.

History is on Australia’s side

The home team has won the Ashes on seven of the last eight occasions. The one exception was England’s victory in Australia back in 2010/11, but the current crop is not at that level. Just four players remain from that famous tour, and the newcomers to the squad generally represent a downgrade on the former stars. England scraped a 3-2 win at home in 2015/16, when both teams were in poor form, and both go into this series with their own problems.

England blew hot and cold against South Africa this year and were unconvincing in their last series against the West Indies. Meanwhile, Australia have struggled against India and could only draw with Bangladesh in their last series, and they now find themselves two places below England in the ICC world rankings. There is not a great deal between them, so home advantage really could swing it in Australia’s favour.

As such, they are the $1.45 favourites to win the series in the latest cricket odds at Oddschecker, while England are $5.00 outsiders. The bookmakers are a pretty sharp bunch and they all overwhelmingly favour Australia.

England are inexperienced and Australia smell blood

England’s selection for the tour drew criticism across the board: veteran broadcaster Jim Maxwell called it one of their “worst ever batting line-ups” and said England would lose 5-0, Kevin Pietersen said it is horrendous and they may as well stay at home, and others accused Root of picking his mates. Some of those comments are a little harsh, but what is hard to overlook is the sheer inexperience of England’s batting line-up. Mark Stoneman, Dawid Malan and James Vince have just 15 caps between them and Smith said his bowlers will try to exploit their lack of familiarity with the fast and bouncy tracks Down Under.

Vice-captain David Warner – who infamously punched Root a couple of years ago – has ramped up the mind games with more fighting talk, saying the Ashes will be like a “war” and promising to build up the “hatred” with England. If they can channel that aggression into keeping Root and Alastair Cook quiet, they should regain the Ashes with ease.

Hosts can blunt Anderson

Anderson is England’s record wicket-taker and their most potent weapon, but he was kept largely quiet back in the whitewash of 2013/14. They had him bowling plenty of overs and he did not take many wickets as they scored a lot of runs, so they could well have his measure once again. Anderson is now 35, while Broad is 31, and they will struggle to play at their highest level for five tests. The absence of Stokes and the loss of Toby Roland-Jones to injury puts more impetus on them, but they cannot hope to do it all themselves and risk being burnt out – another trend Australia can exploit to their advantage.