Root quietly confident ahead of Ashes challenge

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England skipper Joe Root has expressed quiet confidence in his team’s ability to defeat Australia away from home even without Ben Stokes.

Stokes may yet join England down under if he is cleared of criminal charges in an ongoing investigation into a street brawl in Bristol in September.

Root feels the quality in his squad is such that even absent arguably the most explosive allrounder in Test cricket England could retain the urn in a hostile environment.

The skipper downplayed Australia vice-captain David Warner’s suggestion that the Ashes was like warfare.

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Speaking in the Long Room at Lord’s Root said: “I don’t think I would ever put cricket and war in the same bracket.”

The skipper indicated that his team have been preparing for the series under the assumption that Stokes will be absent, though he has yet to be definitively ruled out.

Root said: “I think we’ve got to plan as if he’s not going to be there for the whole series.

“It’s an ongoing investigation, we’re very much in the dark in what’s happening, as is everyone. So as a side we have to make sure we plan accordingly and approach this as our squad.

“Ben offers a lot to the team but, as I said, it’s an opportunity for other guys to stand up. In difficult situations, a lot of the time, people do surprise themselves and surprise you and are capable of more than what they might even think themselves.

“This is one of those occasions when you might just see that and there’s also some guys that have been given another opportunity, who will be desperate to take that.

“As a side I look at where we are and how we’ve grown as a team and think that this is a great opportunity for us to keep developing and move forward again.”

Stokes was a big part of the England team that beat South Africa away from home in 2015/16 in conditions similar to those found in Australia and was set to play a massive role.

Root has spoken to Stokes about the incident but wouldn’t reveal the contents of the discussion.

He added:  “That’s between me and Ben, being brutally honest. That should stay between us. It is disappointing that he’s not going to be on the trip but you have to move on and move forward as a team. He’s obviously very disappointed but I can’t speak for him.”

The skipper insists that while all England players should be on their best bahaviour in Australia they will not be kept on a tight leash.

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He said: “At no point did we say they would be.

“That would be a negative way to go about touring what is a great country.

“Being able to enjoy touring Australia, it is really important go and enjoy the downtime we do get and enjoy the whole nature of touring – the atmosphere of the grounds, the people around the grounds and when you go out for food, the banter that might be flying around and embrace it, because you don’t get many opportunities to go and play in an Ashes series in Australia.

“It’s something you want to look back on and say you approached it in the right way and gave yourself the best chance to be successful and hopefully come away with some fantastic memories.”

The first Ashes Test gets underway in Brisbane on November 23.