Stokes can’t get Ashes out of his head

England & West Indies Net Sessions
Ben Stokes is relishing another Ashes duel. Picture: Gareth Copley/Getty Images

England Test captain Ben Stokes believes his team is living “rent free” in Australian minds but he can’t stop thinking about the next Ashes series either, declaring it was the major factor behind a player clean-out for their series against the West Indies.

Stokes was the source of contempt from former Australian captain Tim Paine after the release of a documentary filmed during the epic 2023 Ashes in which he declared England’s “Bazball” style would side “forever in the memory of people who were lucky enough to witness us play cricket”.

In a social media back-and-forth, Stokes was baited and bit back, evidence of how much his mind was on the Ashes.

He made that clear again ahead of the first Test of the English home summer, which will be a farewell match for legendary fast bowler Jimmy Anderson, who declared that getting to the next Ashes contest in Australia would be too hard.

English selectors have also moved on Jonny Bairstow, infamously run out at Lord’s 12 months ago in one of the most controversial Ashes incidents in history.

Stokes conceded they were moves designed around arming England, who sit in 10th place on the World Test Championship table, for the trip to Australia at the end of 2025.

“Look at where we’ve got to go in 18 months’ time, to Australia. We want to win that urn back,” he said.

“We don’t want to be standing still. I want to keep making this team push themselves as hard as they possibly can.

England & West Indies Net Sessions
The new-look England squad at Lord’s. Picture: Gareth Copley/Getty Images

“I don’t think ‘reboot’ is the right word for what we’ve done, but when you’re in a position where you’ve got to make decisions, it solely comes down to what we think is best for the team.

“You sometimes have to put personal relationships and things to the side. There’ll be some decisions I’m sure people might not understand or might be frustrated by and that’s something that I’m absolutely fine with and completely understand.”

Wicketkeeper Ben Foakes was also overlooked and Jack Leach axed as first-choice spinner, with England instead taking a gamble on the future. Debutant Jamie Smith takes the gloves, fellow newcomer Gus Atkinson joins the bowling attack and Shoaib Bashir replaces Leach.

And Stokes made clear that the revamp has taken place with one main goal in mind: defeating the old enemy for the first time since 2015.