The camera snapped a punch. The Ashes of England hope to make it big in Jazz.
When I heard last week that Ben Stokes was involved in a fight — this time with a real person, not a locker — my heart sank. It went down further when I saw a CCTV video of a man being grabbed by a devastating lawnmower. David Warner could only dream of such a hit. The whole Australian team is now in dreamland as England’s talisman could miss the series.
The latest news is that Stokes will not fly to Australia with his teammates. No surprises there. He must wait for the police to complete their investigation before traveling. Part of me wants them to let him off the hook – for purely cricket reasons of course – but justice must also prevail.
Of course we can’t discuss legalities on this blog – please don’t speculate or bias in the comments below – but we can discuss whether losing Stokes for the entire series was a fatal blow to the Ashes of England – -hope so.
Personally, I think it was a very painful blow, probably a fatal blow. But maybe we shouldn’t give up on that. Every member of Australia’s tempo offense is at risk of injury. Um.
What frustrates me the most about this whole thing is that world-class all-rounders are like Sands. Losing Stokes is like losing two key players at the same time. Losing Thorpe and Gough at the same time felt a little bit – it happened a lot when we were touring Australia in the 90s. I don’t need to remind you how all these trips work.
While England may miss Stokes’ batting the most – he was one of our best players and his skill and temperament were perfect for Australian conditions – I was also impressed by his bowling. Stokes is our golden arm and I’m sure he’ll get a five or two in the series.
At the end of the Windies series, we talked about England having just eight world-class cricketers and three passengers. At issue is whether a team can carry three players in Australia. The conclusion is “probably” but “probably not”. Well, we have four potential passengers to carry. Therefore, our chances of winning are proportionally reduced.
The appointment of Steve Finn to succeed Stokes also sends shivers down my spine. I’m not sure who the selectors might turn to, but Finn simply isn’t a replacement for Stokes. One was an all-rounder who made a name for himself on a previous trip to Australia; the other was a pure bowler who was “unable to choose” at the end of the series. And I’m sure I don’t need to remind everyone that Finn has had a relatively poor season at home in Middlesex, too.
If Stokes is unavailable in Brisbane (or not picked at all), it will be interesting to see how England draw without one of their key batsmen. My best guess is Cook, Stoneman, Vince, Root, Malan, Bairstow, Moeen, Woakes, Overton, Broad and Anderson. I chose Overton over Ball and Finn simply because he could play better, and I figured Bayliss and co would be bothered by any potential breakdowns.
Do you think the above teams can beat Australia? I personally don’t like it. I don’t expect Mo to excel on the harder surfaces in Australia, and Root can’t do it all alone. Cook and Bairstow will need to show their skins if England are to deliver a competitive overall result.
Now don’t get me wrong. I think Steve Smith’s men also have a lot of weaknesses. They are by no means a classic Australian team. But the fact remains that any Australian team, no matter who starts in the last eleven, will always be tough to beat at home. So I think it’s almost impossible for a team with just seven top international Test gridirons to win there.
Of course I could be completely wrong. People like Stoneman, Vince and Malan are likely to step up and play unexpected results. Craig Overton probably pitched as well as Tim Bresnan in 2010-11. But would you bet? If you do, you are a brave man.
Personally, I think the loss of Stokes – who was photographed smoking a cigarette with a bandaged hand at Jason Roy’s wedding this weekend – would be an insurmountable hurdle for our unpredictable team .
So my first reaction to Stoke’s alleged altercation at Bristol was one of rage. I was so angry that I wanted to get drunk and hit someone. Thank God I have the ability to control myself.)