The Ashes: England boss Ashley Giles hoping Ben Stokes will be ready for Brisbane opener against Australia

England managing director Ashley Giles is hopeful Ben Stokes will be ready to face Australia in the first Ashes Test in Brisbane on December 8.

GETTING READY: Ben Stokes looks on during an England nets session at The Gabba in Brisbane Picture: Chris Hyde/Getty Images
GETTING READY: Ben Stokes looks on during an England nets session at The Gabba in Brisbane Picture: Chris Hyde/Getty Images

Stokes took an indefinite break from all cricket in July to prioritise his mental well-being and rest a finger, which he had fractured.

The Durham all-rounder’s return to action has been delayed after England’s first warm-up match against England Lions was abandoned due to rain.

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Giles said: “I’m hopeful and I’d always like to be confident, but we’ve got to treat Ben carefully, as we would anyone else who has been in that position, of not having a lot of cricket under their belts. But he’ll be a difficult man to hold back if he’s ready to go.”

England director of cricket Ashley Giles (right). Picture: Mike Egerton/PA

England are scheduled to face England Lions in a four-day intra-squad match in Brisbane tomorrow.

Giles said: “Ben seems to be going well and it’s just great having him around. I know Joe [Root] will of course be happy having him back in the squad.

“We’ve still got to be steady with him. He hasn’t played a lot of cricket recently and going back to the [lack of] preparation period, it’s not ideal for anyone, particularly those who haven’t had a lot of cricket under their belt.

“So we’ll just keep building him up and we’ll see where we are at the end of this four-day game.”

BE PREPARED: England Test captain Joe Root looks on during a nets session at The Gabba in Brisbane Picture: Chris Hyde/Getty Images

Despite the disruption caused by coronavirus restrictions and the weather, Giles said England’s squad was the best prepared for an Ashes series that he had been a part of. England have been whitewashed 4-0, in 2017/18, and 5-0, in 2013/14, in their two previous Ashes tours Down Under.

“Well certainly that I’ve been involved with in Australia, yes I do,” Giles said when asked about how well prepared England were.

“We’ve thought long and deeply and planned long for this series and not all of it has gone perfectly and I suppose you never expect it to.

“Covid has, of course, added another completely different level to that, but we’ve got to try and get past that and it is the same for both sides, both sides have been over in the T20 World Cup and both sides have been in quarantine.

“So we just need to make sure we’re more ready than the Australians when we hit day one at The Gabba and we all know how important that first Test match is.”

Giles also warned cricket will “have a problem” in its fight against racism unless it gives people “second chances”.

Giles revealed there had been lots of reflection from within England’s Ashes squad in the wake of the racism scandal raised by Azeem Rafiq’s allegations against Yorkshire and said “discrimination of any form just isn’t acceptable.

“If zero tolerance means there is no acceptance of racism and discrimination, absolutely, that’s completely right. But for me, if zero tolerance means that we cut people off, we don’t give second chances, we don’t give people the chance to rehabilitate, then I think we’ve got a problem.

“This area is such a sensitive area, a difficult one for some people to talk about, but I fear if we take that route that the gap may widen and not lessen.”

Michael Vaughan has apologised for the pain Azeem Rafiq has experienced amid his former Yorkshire team-mate’s allegations of racism.

Rafiq told MPs earlier this month of the “inhuman” treatment he suffered during his time at Yorkshire, with Vaughan among a number of figures implicated in the case.

Former England captain Vaughan denied claims he said “too many of you lot, we need to do something about it” to Rafiq and three other Asian players before a Yorkshire match in 2009.

He has been left off the BBC team for the upcoming Ashes tour of Australia due to a potential “conflict of interest”.

And in an interview with BBC Breakfast shown on Saturday morning, Vaughan said: “I’m sorry for the hurt [Rafiq’s] gone through. Time I don’t think can ever be a healer in the situation that he’s gone through.

“It hurts deeply, hurts me that a player has gone through so much [and] be treated so badly at the club that I love.”

“I have to take some responsibility for that because I played for Yorkshire County Cricket Club for 18 years and if in any way shape or form I’m responsible for any of his hurt, I apologise for that.”

Rafiq’s account was backed by former Pakistan bowler Rana Naved-ul-Hasan and England leg-spinner Adil Rashid, who said they heard the comment.

When asked if the trio were lying Vaughan said: “The problem with this situation is that we’ve got too much ‘he said, he said, she said, did they say’ and I think we’ve got to move on from accusations of conversations from many years ago.

“There’s a bigger picture here.”

Vaughan was England skipper from 2003 to 2008 and played his entire domestic career at Yorkshire between 1993 and 2009.

“(The alleged incident) was my last few games and I just remember it clearly that I was proud as punch that we had four Asian players representing Yorkshire County Cricket Club,” he said.

“Nothing but a proud, senior, old pro just about to retire and absolutely delighted that Yorkshire had come so far in my time at the club.”

Vaughan also apologised for a series of historic tweets, including one questioning the lack of English speakers in London and another suggesting England spinner Moeen Ali should ask Muslims he does not know if they are terrorists.

“I apologise deeply to anyone that I’ve offended with those tweets,” Vaughan said.

“Times have moved on and I regret those tweets. We all make mistakes and in my life I’ve made quite a few mistakes on Twitter, I apologise for that.”

Vaughan has accepted the BBC’s decision to exclude him from their Ashes coverage, with England’s first Test in Australia starting on December 8.

“I won’t be doing the Ashes which I understand, the editorial at the moment is all about Azeem Rafiq and racism in the game of cricket. I get that,” said the 47-year-old.

“I just hope in time I get that chance to come back. The one thing I love more than anything since I retired is talking cricket. I love being on Test Match Special and hopefully in time I get that chance to do it again.”