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Mitchell Johnson has said that it would be a grave mistake on Australia’s part to underestimate England if they don’t have all-rounder Ben Stokes in their squad for the upcoming Ashes series.
It remains unclear whether Stokes will feature in the Ashes as he was withdrawn from the squad following an alleged street fight outside a nightclub in Bristol last month.
Despite being removed from the team, Stokes, who was detained overnight on suspicion of causing actual bodily harm, retained the vice-captaincy and was given a central contract for the 2017/18 season.
While Johnson believes that Australia’s bowling attack gives them the upper hand going into the series, he admitted that the Baggy Greens cannot afford to take their foot off the pedal as it “can bite you in the backside”.
“I don’t think you can read too much into what people are commenting on ‘no Stokes, no England’,” Johnson told BBC Radio 5 live’s Tuffers and Vaughan show. “If you’re Australia, you don’t want to be thinking they can’t win because Stokes isn’t there – that can bite you in the backside pretty quickly.”
Coming into the series, Australia haven’t been at their best in the longest format as they were beaten on home soil by South Africa last year before losing to Bangladesh for the first time in Test cricket in August.
However, while England have enjoyed a successful summer, apart from a loss to South Africa and the West Indies, Johnson feels that the pressure will be on the tourists from the moment they touch down in Australia.
“I’m still confident that Australia can win the series, but the performances recently haven’t been great from both sides,” Johnson said. “The wickets are a little bouncier and faster, so some of these new guys might find it harder, and that’s where the Australian bowling attack is strong.”