Stokes in Ashes mix - Giles
Ben Stokes' performances in the ODI series against Australia could have pushed him closer to a spot in this winter's Ashes touring party, according to Ashley Giles, England's limited-overs coach. Giles, who is also a selector, said the panel would sit down for a "huge meeting" ahead of Monday's announcement of the squad to tour Australia and that the one-day form shown by the likes of Stokes and Boyd Rankin may have a bearing, despite England's 2-1 defeat in the series.
Durham allrounder Stokes was asked to fill the role of England's third seamer and his displays were increasingly impressive, culminating in a five-wicket haul at the Ageas Bowl on Monday; he also gave a glimpse of his ability with the bat during a crucial partnership with Jos Buttler to help England win the fourth ODI in Cardiff. His ability in the field, with Giles called him "one of the best in the world", could also help push him ahead of the likes of Chris Woakes and Ravi Bopara for inclusion as a Test allrounder.
Rankin, meanwhile, was the pick of the bowlers against Australia, demonstrating pace and bounce as well as impressive control (his 29.1 overs were delivered at an economy of 3.63). Since making his one-day debut against Ireland, he has taken nine wickets at 16.88 and, with a view to Australian pitches, his height may sway England, much as Chris Tremlett's raw physicality did three years ago.
"They certainly won't have done it any harm," Giles said of the pair's prospects. "If you look at the attributes both of them have; Boyd is six foot 10 or something, a huge man, and he bowls at a good rate of knots. We tend to like our tall fast bowlers. Going to Australia, playing on those wickets, those attributes are important."
"Ben is someone who has been on the radar for a couple of years and people are starting to talk about him, I think he's a really exciting cricketer and there's a lot more to come from him with bat and ball. Already, possibly, he's one of the best fielders in the world - I know that's a big call - he's a terrific athlete so those all-round skills put him in an elite market. When you can do those sorts of things you will be talked about across all forms of the game. We just need to be careful that we aren't pushing them too hard, it still takes time and the experience of playing. But, so far, so good on the report card."
Although England's inexperienced attack struggled to contain Australia in two of the three completed matches - conceding 315 for 7 at Old Trafford and 298 at the Ageas Bowl - Stokes finished as their leading wicket-taker, coming on at first change and nudging 90mph on the speed gun. He only batted three times but twice passed his previous best score.
"We did ask a lot of him as third seamer, we know that," Giles said. "But some of the stuff we've seen this summer, even with red ball, has taken us down that path. He reverses it both ways, he bowls with pace - he bounced out Wade yesterday - he's aggressive. We don't make those big decisions without some evidence and it's there that he's made great leaps.
"His batting is extremely dangerous, as he showed on occasions, but there's a lot more to come there. The guy is a genuine allrounder, across the aspects of the game and quite possibly across all three forms. It's very important we look after these guys and try to nurture them, they are our greatest assets and we'd be silly to take our eyes off the ball."
England are expected to named a 16-man Ashes squad, although in 2010-11 they later expanded the number to 17. Giles would not be drawn further on the make-up of the party, other than to say "the first 12 pick themselves", but said that the selectors had plenty of options to consider. "It will be a good debate, because we've got some very good cricketers. Some of them have come into this series and really impressed, I think that's healthy for some of the guys we have rested that we have young players chasing them up."
The decision to omit several players who had been involved in the home Ashes, including Alastair Cook, England's Test and ODI captain, James Anderson, Ian Bell, Graeme Swann and Stuart Broad, was not met with universal approval and while Giles was pleased with the signs of progress, he admitted that losing a second bilateral series of the summer had not been part of the plan.
"It has been useful. The win in Cardiff was obviously the most pleasing aspect," he said. "That win centred around a lot of the young guys having a really good day. We thought at the start of the series that if we could move two guys on a fair distance in terms of creating a larger pool of players in one-day cricket then this series has done a lot of its job. In Rankin and Stokes, they have probably done that on their own but there are others too, so as a coach that's really pleasing. Ultimately, of course, these aren't practice games and we lost 2-1."
Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here