It is very difficult for any England supporter to be optimistic about the fast approaching Ashes series in Australia. The selection of an incredibly weak squad has only been made worse by the debacle of vice-captain Ben Stokes’ arrest.

Getting hammered at a student bar two days before an ODI is ridiculous – he’s England vice-captain, the world’s finest all-rounder and a household name with a lucrative IPL contract. He simply cannot be so irresponsible, and his stupidity has made England’s already slim chances even worse.

It is unclear how much of the series he will actually play, but without him at his best for all five Tests, England will lose 5-0. Stokes’ aggressive and increasingly consistent batting,
combined with his pacey bowling, are critical to England’s chances of success in Australian conditions. Without him, England’s squad is short of both quality batting and bowling. The rest of the squad is simply not good enough.

The inclusion of Mason Crane, with a bowling average of 42, is a bizarre choice over the prolific Jack Leach or Adil Rashid. There will be a lot of reliance on Broad and Anderson, who are world-class in English conditions, but both average over 30 in Australia. That might have been mitigated by the presence of sheer pace, but with doubts over Stokes and the inexplicable omission of Liam Plunkett, England lack an aggressive enforcer that can match the likes of Pat Cummins or Mitchell Starc.

Meanwhile, Cummins and Starc will be delighted at the prospect of bowling at the likes of Stoneman, Malan, Vince and Ballance. Without Stokes the batting line-up will struggle to recover from the inevitable collapses. If Root and Cook fail in any innings, England could easily be bowled out for less than 200. England fans should prepare for the worst – without Stokes to guide them, England will get slaughtered Down Under.

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