Ben Stokes’ participation in the Ashes would be an “absolute bonus” but England are preparing contingency plans after writing off the all-rounder for the series, coach Trevor Bayliss said.
Vice-captain Stokes was arrested in September after an incident on a night out in Bristol following a one-day international. He was released without charge, but remains under police investigation and is suspended by England.
England, who arrived without Stokes for the series with Australia, had hoped the 26-year-old would join them later on in the tour but Bayliss suggested the team was now gearing up for life without him.
“If he turns up it’s an absolute bonus,” Bayliss told a news conference on Wednesday. “If he did happen to turn up, I’m sure he would slip back in easily.”
Stokes faces an ECB disciplinary investigation following the police probe and Bayliss had “no clue” when he would next be available for selection.
“It’s totally out of our hands. We have just got on with preparing as best we can. I have (written Stokes off).”
Key to England’s hopes
Stokes is a vital part of the team and key to England’s hopes of avoiding a repeat of a humiliating 5-0 whitewash on their last trip to Australia four years ago but Bayliss said England had the players to fill his shoes.
“Having to replace Ben and the combination that we come up with requires doing a bit of both (batting and bowling),” he said.
“Moeen Ali batting as low as eight for the last couple of years... that’s a waste. It’s a combination that we will get to as the team develop. We have had problems at the top of the order so having Mo at eight and (Chris) Woakes nine suited us.
“The way Stokes has been playing, he’s developing into a world-class number five. Those three, in whatever combination, that’s a pretty good five, six, seven with Woakes at number eight. I think that’s what we were working towards anyway.”
England’s preparations were hit on Thursday with pace bowler Steven Finn (knee) and Moeen (sore left side) sustaining injuries during training.
Both players will undergo scans on Friday and could miss the two-day warm-up match against Western Australia in Perth this weekend. England then face Cricket Australia XI in Adelaide and Townsville before the first test starts on Nov. 23 in Brisbane.