Ben Stokes: England captain ‘on course’ to bowl first Ashes Test

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Ben Stokes says he is “definitely on course” to feature in the first Ashes Test against Australia at Edgbaston.

The England captain did not bowl in England’s 10-wicket win against Ireland at Lord’s as he deals with a persistent problem with his left knee.

But Stokes, who turns 32 on Sunday, bowled for the first time in four weeks ahead of Saturday’s game.

“Bowling in the warm-up was a first step,” Stokes said. “I’m happy so I’ll keep building it before Edgbaston.”

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The first Test in the five-match series against Australia begins on June 16.

“I’m definitely on course to bowl in the first Test,” Stokes told Test Match Special.

Stokes bowled just two overs in England’s previous Test, a defeat to New Zealand in Wellington in February.

He then played just two matches for Chennai Super Kings in the Indian Premier League, losing just one more.

At Lord’s against the Irish, he became the first captain in the history of Test cricket to preside over a victory without batting, bowling or keeping a wicket.

He was also in visible distress when he took a catch to dismiss Curtis Campher off the bowling of Joe Root.

“It was never my intention to bowl in this game,” he said. “I landed awkwardly when I got that catch and twisted in a weird way, but it was fine.”

Stokes also dismissed any suggestion that he would not play in the Ashes if he was unable to bowl, saying “it’s not something we’ve even talked about”.

England finally wrapped up victory after tea on the third day, after a spirited Irish fightback.

When the visitors lost the sixth second wicket, effectively the seventh due to an injury to James McCollum, 190 runs remained to make England bat again.

But number eight Andrew McBrine made a classy unbeaten 86 and number nine Mark Adair an impressive 88 to at least push Ireland into the lead.

England eventually needed 11, scored by Zak Crawley in just four balls, to hand Stokes’ side their 11th win in 13 Tests.

They will now look to win the Ashes again for the first time since 2018. Australia have won two and drawn one of the last three series but have not won in the UK since 2001.

Former England captain Michael Vaughan said Stokes’ captaincy is “worth its weight in gold” but it is “so important” that the skipper can struggle against the Australians.

“It’s not just the impact he can have in terms of his bowling, but the rest he allows for the rest of the attack,” Vaughan said.

This summer’s series is perhaps the most anticipated Ashes contest in this country since Vaughan led England to victory in the epic 2005 series.

The biggest source of intrigue comes from England’s ultra-aggressive style of batting against an Australian bowling attack that is arguably the best in the world.

“It’s the Ashes, it’s drama,” added Vaughan. “England played some cricket that makes us desperate to see how this line-up fares against an Australian attack that has pace, skill and variety.”

Stokes, who will lead England in an Ashes series for the first time, said: “It would be wrong to say we’re not excited because Ashes series are a bigger occasion.

“We’re going to go out there and try to do what we did last year.”

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