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England start to face prospect of Ashes without Stokes

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Police appeal for key witnesses to Stokes incident (0:52)

Andrew Miller on how the search for two men may hold the key to Ben Stokes' hopes of retaining his place in England's Ashes squad (0:52)

The prospect of Ben Stokes being part of the Ashes series appears to be slim, but there is "no point" England turning up if they don't believe they can win without him according to team-mate Moeen Ali.

Stokes, who is currently part of the Ashes squad, remains unavailable for England duty until further notice following his alleged part in the brawl outside a Bristol nightclub after the one-day international against West Indies which left a man in hospital and Stokes with a fractured finger.

England depart for Australia on October 28 so unless Stokes is cleared by the police before then it would appear very difficult for him to be able to take his place in the squad.

When asked if England could win the Ashes without Stokes, Moeen said: "Yes, otherwise I feel there's no point in going out there. If he's not there, then we're going to have to play well without him. I definitely feel we can still win.

"I think we all know how good a cricketer he is and what he can bring to the table. He's one of the main players we have and it would be great to have him out there but we'll see what happens."

Stokes was arrested on suspicion of Actual Bodily Harm (ABH) in relation to the incident, which occurred at 2.35am on September 25 outside the Mbargo nightclub, before being released without charge pending further police investigations. Video has since appeared in The Sun newspaper which allegedly shows the incident. Inquiries continue with Avon and Somerset Police yesterday appealing for two male witnesses to come forward to aid the investigations.

On Wednesday, Stokes - and Alex Hales, who was not arrested for the incident but has been helping police with inquiries - were removed from international duty on full pay and the issue was passed to the Cricket Discipline Commission (CDC), although it is unlikely they will make any judgement until the police decide whether to press charges.

There are further knock-on effects of the incident being felt. The announcement of the next batch of central contracts, which was due to be made on Wednesday, October 4, could now be delayed while some clarity is sought on the situation. Stokes and Hales, the latter of whom has one of England's white-ball central contracts, would ordinarily have been certainties to have their deals renewed.

The selectors will also have to start considering how they would replace Stokes in the Ashes squad if he has to be withdrawn. Tom Westley, who played in each of England's last three Tests but didn't make the original party, could come back into the frame although there will also be a need to cover for Stokes' bowling workload. With Toby Roland-Jones and Mark Wood already sidelined, Steven Finn and Liam Plunkett are among the likeliest fast-bowling options.

There is a potential commercial impact, too, with brewery company Greene King being the first brand to distance themselves from the incident by withdrawing an advert involving Stokes which was filmed last year but was re-aired during the fourth ODI against West Indies. It could also be that companies who endorse Stokes will consider their relationship with him.

Andrew Strauss, the director of England cricket, will undertake a full review of the incident and assess whether there are broader issues around the England team that need to be addressed. There are no curfews currently in place and coach Trevor Bayliss has said he is sceptical as to whether they have any effect.

Strauss has reminded all the players in the Ashes squad of their responsibilities and it has been reported that Joe Root, the Test captain, and Stuart Broad have pulled out of Jos Buttler's stag do in Amsterdam, although there was no direct order for them to do so.