Is it a case of no Stokes, no chance for England?

Alec Swann Columnist

By Alec Swann, Alec Swann is a Roar Expert

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    It can hardly be classed as the mother of all revelations to suggest England will be worse off without the presence of Ben Stokes.

    Take a high-class cricketer out of any team, whoever they are and whatever they do, and the collective, in the majority of circumstances, will inevitably suffer.

    Add to the equation the fact the current age is hardly comparable to, say, the late 1980s of Botham/Hadlee/Knan/Dev in the match-winning, seam-bowling allrounder stakes and it is only magnified.

    Teams crave the kind of player Stokes is as pick six batsmen and he would be one of them; pick four seamers and he’d be one of them. Factor in a keenness for the fight (ahem) and you have a pretty good deal.

    From where I’m sitting, and this probably goes for many, the chances of Stokes taking the field in Brisbane in six weeks’ time are negligible. Push me for an answer and I would say the 2017-18 edition of The Ashes won’t feature the Durham man at all.

    I hope he does but that’s with the cricket-only blinkers firmly in place. Given what’s transpired there just doesn’t seem any way he can be selected, police charges or not.

    Players have lost their jobs over far less and if nothing else, Stokes’ importance to the England set-up is highlighted by the fact he is now on the naughty step rather than in exile.

    Hypothetical, of course, but the fallout would’ve been interesting had a player on the fringes acted in a similar manner.

    But it is what it is and for now the tourists’ planning for the Gabba will focus on filling the gaping hole in the middle order/attack.

    Is it really, as has already been predicted in some quarters, a case of no Stokes, no chance?

    Yes, England’s odds on retaining the urn have lengthened – $4 for a series victory at the time of writing – and rightly so. They wouldn’t have started as favourites even with Stokes but I’m not so sure it will be the clean sweep the more pessimistic/optimistic (geography dictating) believe.

    Ben Stokes holds up the ball and grins after taking his sixth wicket

    (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

    But that’s somewhere down the line with the no Stokes issue needing to be dealt with in the first instance. So what to do?

    A noticeable strength of the England team over the past couple of years has been the lower middle order positions of 6, 7 and 8. These slots are not often filled by players with multiple Test centuries but Stokes, Jonny Bairstow and Moeen Ali have made for a dangerous triumvirate in positions, certainly in the case of the latter two, a touch too low for their ability.

    If the desire is to maintain a strong presence from four wickets down then Bairstow and Ali can shift up a place and Ben Foakes come in to keep wicket and bat at 8. This would obviously omit a bowler which leaves another option of Chris Woakes becoming the seam-bowling allrounder but batting at the foot of this particular trio.

    The other road to go down could be that of picking a sixth specialist batsman and employing a four-man attack. This approach served them well not too long ago but since Stokes showed up it hasn’t been needed.

    Ali works far better when he isn’t required to hold an end up and is used in a more offensive manner yet as part of a four-man unit there is a real danger he could get exposed which is the last thing they will want.

    It is likely, certainly at first, that Woakes will fill the vacancy with Ali possibly going up to 6 and Bairstow staying in his current position at 7. This covers the bases of retaining a five-man attack and a batting order that doesn’t stop too early.

    Given the hosts’ approach in the first Test, with a few predictable ‘enforcer’ articles already penned, will be more foot to the floor then ease through the gears, a lengthening of the tail won’t even be contemplated, especially given what occurred four years ago when Mitchell Johnson hit his straps.

    And with five bowlers looking like a necessity, the Woakes option is the only one which fits this particular bill.

    England do have a chance in the series, albeit one less than a few weeks ago, but an uphill task – and this isn’t taking into account the dismal record at the Gabba – has been made significantly more challenging.

    I hope you’re ready for it Chris.

    Alec Swann
    Alec Swann

    Alec Swann is a former Northants and Lancashire opener turned cricket writer. Outside of the joys of a Test match, Newcastle United and golf generally occupy his other sporting interests with a soft spot for the Newcastle Knights.

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    The Crowd Says (39)

    • October 14th 2017 @ 9:02am
      Kangajets said | October 14th 2017 @ 9:02am | ! Report

      Australia v England again , didn’t they play each other last year ?

      ashes overkill

      • October 14th 2017 @ 11:51pm
        Mitcher said | October 14th 2017 @ 11:51pm | ! Report

        Hi

      • Roar Guru

        October 15th 2017 @ 8:11pm
        JamesH said | October 15th 2017 @ 8:11pm | ! Report

        No, two years ago. And it’s been four years since they toured here for tests.

    • October 14th 2017 @ 9:13am
      Worlds Biggest said | October 14th 2017 @ 9:13am | ! Report

      they last played in 2015, you do know they play the Ashes series home & away every two years right ?

      Alec no doubt Stokes would be a big loss as he is quality, Australia would give there right arm to have him. That said the Aussies have there own issues to deal with namely the Number 6 position, keeper and the standard batting collapses as soon as Warner & Smith get out. Irrespective of Stokes playing or not, this series will be close.

      • October 14th 2017 @ 9:17am
        Kangajets said | October 14th 2017 @ 9:17am | ! Report

        Yes u r right 2015. still Seems like yesterday that England bowled the Aussie’s out for abt 68 ish

      • October 14th 2017 @ 2:08pm
        Nudge said | October 14th 2017 @ 2:08pm | ! Report

        It wouldn’t surprise if Australia win 5-0 like last time if Stokes is out.
        I don’t think the English supporters are even giving England a chance. You just have to get on the roar to work that out. Usually when England are looking strong, there is 10 English respondents on here, saying how hopeless Oz are and letting us know how good they are. They will stay around if England are winning and disappear as soon as things look grim. This usually starts at least 6 months out from the first test. This time things must be looking really grim because they haven’t appeared at all. Front runners.

        • October 14th 2017 @ 2:49pm
          Neil Back said | October 14th 2017 @ 2:49pm | ! Report

          Nah, we’ve been here. Maybe you’re applying a gobby standard of your own?

          • October 14th 2017 @ 3:58pm
            Nudge said | October 14th 2017 @ 3:58pm | ! Report

            He’s back. Thought my post might stir the hornets nest.

          • October 14th 2017 @ 8:28pm
            Jameswm said | October 14th 2017 @ 8:28pm | ! Report

            But are you going to win oh former average underweight back rower?

          • October 15th 2017 @ 12:07am
            Mitcher said | October 15th 2017 @ 12:07am | ! Report

            Neil’s Back.

        • October 15th 2017 @ 1:50am
          Custard Cream said | October 15th 2017 @ 1:50am | ! Report

          Win, lose or draw, England supporters stick around, unlike the fanatical Australians who left MCG deserted in 2010 when things weren’t going their way.

          • October 15th 2017 @ 5:37pm
            Minor Kampf said | October 15th 2017 @ 5:37pm | ! Report

            England only hang around to drink beer and sing. they dont even notice the cricket going on around them

    • October 14th 2017 @ 9:50am
      Brian said | October 14th 2017 @ 9:50am | ! Report

      Its a shame for the chances of a close series. As for england bairstow should go 5, moeen 6, foakes 7 and woakes at 8.

      Needs to be said if stokes was a fringe player he’d be in exile.

      On a side note if he is suspended for an extended period would he become a t20 mercenary or would a ban include world t20.

    • October 14th 2017 @ 9:58am
      Paul said | October 14th 2017 @ 9:58am | ! Report

      This is an excellent article Alec which summarises the England situation very well.

      When it comes to England’s chances however, there is no focus on Australia and the issues currently confronting the team. This is still a young side and Smith is still a captain in learning. There are spots up for grabs in the batting lineup and obviously we have a weakness behind the stumps.

      If England wins one of the first two Tests, this could become a very interesting series as England are hard to beat if they get their tails up. On the other hand, two-nil down or one really bad loss, could see Australia take a stranglehold on the series.

      I still rate England a chance without Stokes and the Australians would be stupid not to do so as well.

      • October 17th 2017 @ 12:05pm
        James said | October 17th 2017 @ 12:05pm | ! Report

        Stop saying that Smith is a young captain and needs to learn. The guy has been captain for two and a half years now, he has captained in 26 tests; Mark Taylor was only captain for 50, Clarke for 47. At Adelaide he will equal Richie Benaud and Kim Hughes, in Melbourne Ian Chappell, at the end of ashes he will be Australias 8th most experienced test captain. Yes captains are always learning but Smith has been captain long enough for no one to use inexperience as an excuse.

    • October 14th 2017 @ 10:02am
      TheCunningLinguistic said | October 14th 2017 @ 10:02am | ! Report

      I reckon England will go down 4-0 without Stokes. If he was there, it might be 3-0.

    • October 14th 2017 @ 11:37am
      Ad-0 said | October 14th 2017 @ 11:37am | ! Report

      I’m not so sure. Allrounders don’t usually get up to much in Australia. What they need is one more class bat to go with Root, and for Cook to play like 2010. I also think they need to find a Tremlett 2010 especially because I think Anderson is done in Oz conditions. Stokes would be nice, but they will miss these guys more.

      • October 14th 2017 @ 2:51pm
        Neil Back said | October 14th 2017 @ 2:51pm | ! Report

        Yeah, I’d go with that. A player like Stokes is icing on the cake. England are missing the cake at the moment.

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