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Joe Root: Ben Stokes looks 'very promising' for first Ashes Test as England begin light training

Squad has emerged from hard quarantine to focus on acclimatisation in Queensland

Ben Stokes puts his recently mended finger to the test with catching practice, England in Australia, November 11, 2021

Ben Stokes puts his recently mended finger to the test with catching practice  •  Getty Images

Joe Root, England's captain, believes that Ben Stokes is firmly on track for the first Ashes Test in Brisbane in just under a month's time, after making a cautious return to training at the squad's quarantine base on the Gold Coast in Queensland.
Speaking after the squad's emergence from three days of hard quarantine, Root said their main priority had been overcoming jet lag and acclimatising to the heat and humidity of Australia, but added that the progress of Stokes - who only returned to training a fortnight ago after recovering from a second finger operation - was "very promising".
"Ben has been fully involved in training the last couple of days," Root said. "It has been very light, we are just trying to acclimatise as best we can. He's had a bat, a bowl, taken some catches, doing his fielding work slightly separately. It looks like he's on track and it's really exciting. It's managing that excitement and making sure we don't push him too hard so he's ready for the first game."
Stokes missed the whole of the 2017-18 Ashes campaign in the wake of the Bristol nightclub incident, and given that England have not won in Brisbane since 1986-87, the tone for this latest series could once again be set at the Gabba, when the first Test begins on December 8.
"I really hope so," Root said, when asked if Stokes would be fit to play. "It's been remarkable to see how far he's come. It looks very promising. He's been brilliant. We've seen him at training, having him back amongst things is always great, so it's really nice to have him back involved."
Stuart Broad is another player who is working his way back after a lengthy absence, following the calf injury that brought an early end to his 2021 home season. Root added that Broad too had been getting himself ready with light training since the end of the quarantine period.
"He bowled today in the nets again, very light workloads at the minute, but it's good to see him back in and around things, and being able to get into it," Root said. "It's about getting those workloads back up again, with all the bowlers really, making sure that they are absolutely ready to go for that first Test match. We've got all options on the table."
In terms of the lockdown lifestyle, Root reiterated his gratitude at the leeway that England's players have been afforded for this period of the tour, following protracted negotiations between the ECB, Cricket Australia, and the state and federal governments.
"There are always obvious restrictions within the hotel," he said. "All we can do really is live by the guidelines that have been set out. It's not too dissimilar to other things that we've experienced in the past. It's been great, the last couple of days, that we've been able to get out and train and use some of the facilities, so hopefully that can continue and we can keep enjoying that, keep readying ourselves as best we can.
"The weather is probably the hardest factor," Root added. "We've had a big thunderstorm this afternoon which interrupted part of our training but everyone's got into things pretty well. We're very lucky to have been looked after like this."