How do England replace Ben Stokes in the Ashes? We look at the options
By Oliver Yew
Last Updated: 28/10/17 4:08pm
Joe Root says England are preparing for an Ashes series without Ben Stokes - so how do they replace their star all-rounder?
England's preparations for the series begin on November 4 in a warm-up game against Western Australia before they face a Cricket Australia XI in two four-day matches, in Adelaide and Townsville.
The priority for Root and his side will be to come up with a winning formula in Stokes' absence ahead of the first Test at the Gabba, which gets underway on November 23.
Here we assess how England could replace Stokes...
Pack the batting
Stokes' all-round brilliance brings an excellent balance to the England side, allowing them to field a five-man attack or even a six-man attack at times. But it's his batting which has been key to England's recent success.
With England's top-order troubles well known, Stokes' runs from the No 6 position have been crucial and will need replacing if England are to have any chance of retaining the Ashes.
To do that England could take the option of packing their batting for the first Test at The Gabba. Jonny Bairstow, Moeen Ali and Chris Woakes could stay in the No 7, 8 and 9 positions respectively with a specialist batsman coming into the side at No 6, leaving Root with a four-man attack in Brisbane.
With Alastair Cook and Mark Stoneman set to open, James Vince is expected to bat at three ahead of Root and Dawid Malan, who featured against both South Africa and West Indies during the summer, and Gary Ballance could come back into the side to fill the void left by Stokes.
Keep the five-man attack
England are a team not short of batting down the order, so Bairstow and Ali could both move up a spot in the batting order with Woakes in the No 8 spot - a position he is more than capable of filling.
This will allow Root to have a fifth front-line bowling option, something that is particularly useful as he looks to spread the workload on his bowlers in the heat and on the flat pitches of Australia.
The decision for England would then be who they bring in to join James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Woakes and Ali in the attack.
Steven Finn has been added to the squad and faces competition from Jake Ball and the uncapped pair of Craig Overton and Mason Crane for the final bowling spot, while Mark Wood is with the Lions squad and will hope to get a chance should he prove his fitness.
Release Bairstow up the order
Another option could be for England to take the gloves off Bairstow and release him up the order, bringing in the uncapped Ben Foakes as wicketkeeper-batsman.
Again, England's top-order problems are well documented but moving Bairstow up the order to No 5 could potentially fill one of the troublesome positions.
The Yorkshireman would argue that he could bat at No 5 and keep the gloves, but it would be a hugely demanding job, particularly in the heat of Australia.
By taking the gloves off him, he could focus solely on his batting with Ali moving up to No 6 and Foakes batting at No 7, followed by Woakes and three bowlers, keeping the balance of the side the same as when Stokes was in the team.
What about a wildcard pick?
There's still time for the selectors to add another name to the touring party.
The Lions squad, which will be in Australia during November and December for a training camp, would probably be the first port of call for replacements but there are a few names not in that party which could be on the selectors' minds.
Liam Plunkett has impressed for England in one-day internationals, as have Jos Buttler and Jason Roy, who on their day can take apart any attack in world cricket, while there have even been calls for PCA Player of the Year Samit Patel to earn a Test recall following his brilliant season for Nottinghamshire.