The Ashes 2021-22 – Ben Stokes is ‘moving forward’, says Chris Silverwood, but unlikely to form part of England’s Plan B

England will have to fall back on Plan B in Australia – and that is not ‘B for Ben Stokes‘, with head coach, Chris Silverwood, stressing that no timeframe has been put on the talismanic allrounder making his comeback.

In the two years since Silverwood took over from Trevor Bayliss with a brief to regain the Ashes, England had dedicated much of their planning to having a group of 90mph fast bowlers – Jofra Archer, Mark Wood and Olly Stone – ready to deploy in Australia. But with Archer and Stone ruled out by elbow and back problems respectively, as well as Wood’s well-documented fragility, Joe Root’s attack will prioritise “supreme accuracy” in their attempts to regularly take 20 Australian wickets.

Silverwood believed England will be “very competitive” after picking what amounts to a full-strength squad, given the expected absences of Stokes, Archer, Stone and Moeen Ali, who retired from Test cricket last month. Only three of England’s top-order batters have played Tests in Australia before, and although Root is currently ranked No. 1 in the world by the ICC, the next-highest in the squad is Rory Burns at No. 24.

Stokes’ return would strengthen England in all departments and it is not impossible that he could join the tour at a later date. For now, Silverwood stressed that the player’s mental well-being remained the priority, as he continues to work back to fitness after another operation on his finger earlier in the week.

“Ben is moving forward, the communications I have had with him he is definitely more upbeat,” Silverwood said. “But what I will say is there will be no pressure from me for him to rush back. I’ve said, ‘When you’re ready, you call me and we’ll make a plan from there’. So there’s no pressure from me and no date on it.

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