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Ashes Scout: 'Superstar' Stokes set, Langer's huge Green comparison, Harris rebukes Warne on Starc

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6th December, 2021
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Ben Stokes isn’t just ready to make a return, he’s set to have a huge impact on the Ashes, according to England coach Chris Silverwood.

The star all-rounder is a certain starter for Wednesday’s First Test at the Gabba after recently returning to the squad following a break from the game to deal with mental health issues and allow his injured finger to heal.

Stokes was Australia’s nemesis in the last series with his miraculous hundred at Headingley one of the greatest Ashes innings of all time and Silverwood conveniently reminded the hosts “they know he can take anybody down”.

He has been training strongly in Brisbane and looked back to his best in the team’s intra-squad match, ready to fire at No.5 with the bat and make crucial breakthroughs with his seamers against Australia.

“From a readiness point of view he looks good to go. He is a superstar, isn’t he?” Silverwood told reporters in Brisbane.

“I think it is massive, really. We felt a lift when his name came back into the hat for being on tour in the first place. We love having him around and not just from his cricket point of view.

“He is lively around the dressing room, he is a leader in his own right. People listen to him, he has a lot of things to share. From a cricketing point of view, we’ve seen how devastating he is with bat and ball at times.

“Certainly, that knock at Headingley will be hurting the Australians, it did hurt them and will still be hurting for a while to come. So they will be wary of him as a cricketer.

“They know what he can do, what he is capable of and they know he can take anybody down.”

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The tourists look likely to use spinner Jack Leach with a front-line pace trio from James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Ollie Robinson, Mark Wood and Chris Woakes.

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Robinson, who has toured Australia with an England Lions squad, is adamant the tourists can get the Kookaburra balls to hoop around although they don’t swing as much as the Dukes brand they’re accustomed to using on home soil where the grass is always greener.

“The ball has felt like it’s swung more and that’s obviously a bonus. If the balls stay like that, we feel like we can get early wickets and get on top,” Robinson said.

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“It swung after lunch [in the squad match] when the ball was 25-30 overs old, which it probably hasn’t done in the past. The lacquer feels more like the Dukes lacquer, and there are positives to take from that.”

Langer tickled pink with red-hot Green

Justin Langer concedes England have the advantage when it comes to experience with their all-rounder but he thinks Australia’s young gun Cameron Green has the ability to match Ben Stokes.

In an in-depth interview with former Australian coach John Buchanan for Code Sports, he said Australia had “the luxury of Cameron Green” being able to slot into the middle order and provide a reliable fifth bowling option.

Australia have searched far and wide for an all-rounder to balance their Test side for several years and the coach believes the West Australian 22-year-old can fit that bill for a long time.

Cameron Green

Cameron Green (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

“Whilst he doesn’t have the experience of Ben Stokes, he’s certainly got the talent of Ben Stokes,” he said.

“You always like to have that [all-rounder] in a Test team and we’re lucky at the moment to have that. I hope he stays fit and healthy and keeps playing well.

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“What I like about him is how many runs he makes, he’s a gun fielder in the gully, he’s a beautiful athlete. I think he’s 6’8 and I saw him bowl today and he’s a real talent with the ball as well.

“That’s only going to get better as his body gets stronger. He’s one to look out for this series.”

Harris not happy with Warne’s Starc vendetta

Former Australian paceman Ryan Harris has come to the defence of Mitchell Starc and also expressed his frustration at spin king Shane Warne’s constant criticism of the left-arm speedster.

“I’m not sure what he’s done to Warnie. I’m a bit disappointed in that, I’m not a big fan of coming out and slaying in the media,” Harris told SEN Radio in Adelaide.

“I hope Warnie has had a phone call to Starcy and explained what he’s talking about.”

Mitchell Starc of Australia bowls during day four of the 3rd Test match in the series between Australia and India at Sydney Cricket Ground on January 10, 2021 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Jason McCawley - CA/Cricket Australia via Getty Images)

(Photo by Jason McCawley – CA/Cricket Australia via Getty Images)

Harris said rising star Jhye Richardson is in good form but he’s backing Starc to deliver for Australia at his happy hunting ground of the Gabba when the First Ashes Test begins on Wednesday.

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“I thought he bowled OK at the [T20] World Cup, he did what he needed to do, he did his job.

“The thing for me, if Mitchell Starc starts swinging a ball, albeit a white one, it’s a good sign and I think he did that in just about every World Cup game he played over in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

“He has got a bit of variation as well.

“If Mitchell Starc is swinging the ball that means he’s getting into good position with his wrists and that allows you to put the ball consistently in the right spot.”

Panesar warns England about sledging

Former England spinner Monty Panesar has warned the team of the dilemma of dealing with Australian crowds.

But he says the intensity of the green and gold fans is nothing compared to what he had to put up with back in Luton when he was coming through the ranks.

In his column for the Telegraph in London, he told the tale of an under-16 game between Luton Town & Indians and Hexton CC which turned physical.

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“At one point, I felt something thump me in the shoulder and then, as I turned around, I got punched in the face. I looked at the umpire – Hitu Naik, my youth coach – and the look in his eye gave it all away: ‘Listen youngster, if you want to play for England this is what you expect – don’t shy away, give it back’.

“The next ball, I barged the batsmen and was none too subtle about it. Hitu looked at me in disgust, took me away and said: ‘You’re supposed to get him out, not get into a fight’.”

Bit hard for a left-arm spinner to intimidate batters at the best of times, let alone when they’re a skinny teenager.

Panesar said the typical Australian crowd’s modus operandi was to crank up the pressure on English players until they crack.

“If you complain, they’ll say, ‘Sorry, mate, it was only a joke’. If you fight back, it will be ‘Gosh, you went a bit far, mate’. It’s all hard but fair until the moment you react.”

On the field he warned England to expect plenty of chirping from Australia too.

“The best response I saw was Jimmy Anderson in the 2010-11 tour, after Mitchell Johnson unwisely chose to take him on.

“Johnson said to Jimmy: ‘Why are you chirping now mate, not getting wickets?’ Next ball, Anderson dismissed Ryan Harris with a perfect yorker, immediately turned back towards Johnson and put a finger to his lips: shush, Mitch.”

Vaughan backs Cummins but Atherton not so sure

Australia’s new Test captain Pat Cummins has found an unlikely ally in former England skipper Michael Vaughan, who believes the fast bowler can buck the trend of batters getting leadership roles.

Vaughan took to Twitter to say he’s very much in the school of thinking that it’s easier for batters to be captains but believes Cummins can manage the workload despite being a front-line quick.

Another former England captain, Michael Atherton, says Cummins faces many questions trying to go against the conventional line of thinking from most nations that fast bowlers struggle to cope with the skipper’s role on top of their physically demanding on-field duties.

“There must be good reason why, in a game now almost 150 years old, fast bowlers have generally been overlooked for the top job,” he wrote in his column for the Sunday Times.

“Can he break the mould? Can he control his emotions in a one-on-one contest with a batsman and think critically and coolly about the bigger picture? Can he find the right balance between under-bowling and overbowling himself?

“How will he combine the extreme physical demands with the constant requirement to be thinking about the game. No more grazing at fine leg in between overs to rest up. Will his body last the course?

“All these are legitimate questions that must be answered.”

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