Moeen Ali insists England can win this winter’s Ashes with or without their vice-captain Ben Stokes.
England named Stokes in their 16-man squad on Wednesday, despite his arrest two days earlier on suspicion of causing actual bodily harm at the end of a night out in Bristol in the middle of the Royal London Series.
After a video published on The Sun’s website, which allegedly showed him throwing a series of punches in a street fight outside a nightclub in the Clifton Triangle, the England and Wales Cricket Board announced both Stokes – who has a broken finger on his right hand – and one-day international opener Alex Hales will not be considered for selection until further notice.
Serious doubt therefore hangs over Stokes’ availability to travel with the rest of Joe Root’s squad when they depart for Australia on October 28, with the first Ashes Test set to get under way in Brisbane less than a month later.
At the height of his powers, in fact, the brilliant 26-year-old all-rounder may face a protracted absence – especially if Avon & Somerset Police decide to charge him with a criminal offence.
Without him and Hales, England won the final two ODIs against West Indies this week to record a 4-0 clean sweep.
Afterwards, thoughts inevitably turned to the impending Ashes – with predictable taunts already arriving from Down Under, and in some cases closer to home, about England’s mission impossible if they travel minus a player who has hit six centuries and taken 95 wickets in his 39 Tests to date.
His fellow all-rounder Moeen, however, does not see it like that.
Asked if England can still bring the Ashes back even if Stokes takes no part, he said: “Yes – otherwise I feel there’s no point in going out there.
“If he’s not there, then we’re going to have to play well without him … (but) I definitely feel we can still win.”
Moeen, man-of-the-series against West Indies after a memorable six-laden hundred in Bristol and then another match-winning hand at The Oval three days ago, was speaking after England had concluded their longest ever summer with a nine-wicket trouncing of the tourists at the Ageas Bowl.
“I think we all know how good a cricketer he is, and what he can bring to the table,” he added of Stokes.
“He’s one of the main players we have, and it would be great to have him out there … but we’ll see what happens.”
Those decisions must be taken by ECB management in the coming weeks, and may well depend on the next stage of the police investigation.
Moeen, meanwhile, has signed off for the season and will embark for Australia at the top of his game.
“With the confidence I’ve got throughout the year, I feel that I can just go out and play the way I do,” he said.
“I’ve just enjoyed every minute of this summer, and it’s been great for my own cricket and development.”