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Stokes' return massive for England's Ashes tour: Root

Ben Stokes of England
Ben Stokes of England
Image: Dan Mullan/Getty Images

The return of Ben Stokes to England's squad for the Ashes tour will give them a better chance of winning in Australia but the all-rounder will need time to rediscover his best form, captain Joe Root said.

Stokes had taken an indefinite break from cricket in July to focus on his mental health, while also recovering from a second operation on a broken finger, and was not included in coach Chris Silverwood's initial squad for the series.

But the England and Wales Cricket Board said last month that Stokes would be available for the five-Test series, which is due to start on December 8 in Brisbane.

"Obviously, it's massive news," Root said. "Speak to anyone within the game, whether they'd prefer to have Ben in their team or not, and everyone would say they would.

"Although we all know what Ben is capable of, we're still managing expectations. He's been out of the game a long time, he's had a serious injury and he's got a lot of work to do to get himself back to the Ben Stokes we all know.

"But if there's one thing we can bet on with Ben it's that he'll do everything he can to ready himself and then put in performances that help England win games of cricket."

Australia retained the Ashes in 2019 after the series ended in a 2-2 draw.

Meanwhile, Australia opener Will Pucovski has been all but ruled out of the  Ashes as he continues to battle concussion symptoms.

Pucovski, who has a history of concussion problems, was struck by a ball while training for Victoria nearly a month ago.

Victoria coach Chris Rogers ruled him out of this week's Sheffield Shield match against New South Wales and said he was a major doubt for the Ashes opener after not recovering as well as hoped.

"In discussions with the medical team and national selectors, it was felt that we'd give him a bit more time before he's selected to play for Australia," Rogers told reporters on Wednesday.

"No doubt it's a setback - I'd say now it's unlikely he'll play in the first test.

"If we do play a third Shield game in mid-November, and there might be a second XI game for Victoria as well, that might prepare him for one of the matches in the middle of the Ashes series.

"That's the best-case scenario at the moment."

The recent training blow was the 10th concussion of Pucovski's career.

The shaggy-haired 23-year-old made his long-awaited Test debut against India in Sydney in January but suffered a shoulder injury in the match and was replaced by opener Marcus Harris for the fourth Test in Brisbane.

Australia Test captain Tim Paine has tipped Harris as the 'frontrunner' to partner long-time opener David Warner against England if Pucovski proves unfit, but Queensland captain Usman Khawaja is also a chance after scoring two consecutive tons in the Shield last month. - Reuters



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