Confidence is high in the England camp, the players believing they can regain the Ashes, with opening batsman Rory Burns saying on Sunday the return of the talismanic Ben Stokes has provided a “massive boost” for the squad.
England has not enjoyed much Test success in recent months, losing home series to New Zealand and India, and has not held the Ashes since 2015.
But the late inclusion of Stokes, who has not played any cricket since July because of a finger injury and mental health issues, has lifted the squad, Burns said.
“It’s obviously a massive boost to get Stokesy back in the side,” Burns said from the luxury resort on the Gold Coast where England’s Test players, who arrived in Australia on Saturday, are serving 14 days in quarantine.
“You know what a good player he is. To get a bloke of his calibre back around our group is a big lift for us. It’s exciting because we wanted to get out here and have the best side possible and obviously Ben adds to that,” Burns said.
The 30-year-old Stokes is a proven match-winner and his unbeaten 135 in a record run chase at Headingley carried England to a stunning one-wicket victory and ensured the 2019 Ashes was squared.
But the New Zealand-born all-rounder has played down his return to full fitness and told Sky Sports before leaving for Australia that while he was desperate to be back playing in the “pinnacle of Test cricket”, one player did not make a team.
“Although I know I’m a senior member of that team over the last few years, every member of that team is just as important,” he said.
“We’ve got the likes of Jimmy (Anderson), Broady (Stuart Broad) who have obviously been there, done that. Rooty — fantastic leader and England’s greatest-ever batter, so we’ve got everything to come back at Australia,” Stokes said.
England has taken a back-up squad to Australia to provide opposition in two warm-up games before the first Test starts in Brisbane on December 8.