Former England captain Michael Vaughan believes all-rounder Ben Stokes will be the focal point of Australia’s sledging during the forthcoming Ashes series.
Stokes thumped an outstanding 85-ball century at Lord’s against New Zealand last month but has shown a fiery side, too, most memorably engaging in a war of on-field words with West Indies batsman Marlon Samuels earlier this year.
It was the Jamaican who unforgettably had the last laugh, silently saluting Stokes as he left the field following his dismissal during the second Test in Grenada.
Vaughan doubts that incident will have gone unnoticed by Australia, for whom captain Michael Clarke said earlier this week that his side will not be shrinking away from confrontation.
Vaughan has, therefore, urged Stokes to keep his temper in check – as he did against the Kiwis – and let his cricket do the talking.
“Don’t play against Australia and expect it to be quiet. With Ben Stokes you know the way they will play against him. We saw with the Marlon Samuels incident that he is vulnerable to anyone having a chirp,” said former Yorkshire opener Vaughan.
“Don’t be surprised if they all come at him. There won’t just be one. It will be all 11 going for Ben Stokes. And how does he control it? The New Zealand series was nice. It was friendly and Stokesy got the best out of himself. He was brilliant.
“So far in his career, firing back has not worked as well as the casual approach. His carefree approach against New Zealand was fantastic. Whatever he had in his head in the New Zealand series he needs to just take it into the Australia series and shut them out.”
With the first Test less than two weeks away, Vaughan, the 2005 Ashes-winning captain, is fearing the worst.
“The Aussies have got the better team, no question. When you look at all the facets within a team the Australians are stronger at this moment,” he said.
However, Vaughan does see hope for England following their approach against New Zealand, against whom they matched stride for stride in a drawn Test series as well as claiming a 3-2 win in the pulsating one-dayers.
“This England team have brought the nation to life in the last two or three weeks in one-day cricket and I thought they did that in the Tests against New Zealand as well,” added Vaughan.
“Can they trust themselves to play that style of cricket for every day of the Ashes series, for 25 days if it goes that long?
“If they do and if they are brave enough and they don’t fear failure, and they don’t fear losing, I really do think they can compete quite strongly.”