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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 15 December 2018

Ian Bell backs Chris Woakes to fill void left by Ben Stokes during the Ashes series

England's celebrated all-rounder will miss at least the first two Tests, but his deputy has the ability to 'step into the role' according to his county teammate.

Chris Woakes, centre, will be tasked with supporting England's bowling attack while supplying runs with the bat lower down the order. Ian Hitchcock / Getty Images
Chris Woakes, centre, will be tasked with supporting England's bowling attack while supplying runs with the bat lower down the order. Ian Hitchcock / Getty Images

Chris Woakes will provide able cover for the absent England all-rounder Ben Stokes during the Ashes, according to his county teammate Ian Bell.

Woakes had established himself as a key figure in the England team before the start of this year, but injury has restricted him to just one Test so far in 2017.

Now restored to full fitness, he might have a vital role to play for England in Australia, given the high-profile absence of his more celebrated all-round colleague.

Stokes lost his place in the England tour party due to an ongoing investigation into an alleged assault while on a night out last summer.

Bell, who was part of four Ashes-winning series for England, thinks Woakes is capable of shouldering the extra burden.

“From the outside, maybe he isn’t as flamboyant or as eye-catching a cricketer as Stokes, but he is very consistent in his game,” Bell said.

“When he is at the top of his game, he has good pace and gets it to shape out. I’m sure he will be excited, and there is no doubt he will have to step up into that role.”

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England won three home Ashes series and one away with Bell in their ranks. He also, however, experienced the pain of two whitewashes in Australia, in 2006-07 and 2013-14.

He believes Australia are some way short of being the power they were in either of those defeats, but acknowledges it could be difficult for England.

“I have been there three times and it is a tough place to go,” Bell said. “They are very, very good at home, but although they have got four or five world-class players, they are not the best Australian side they have had in the past 10 or 15 years.

“I think they are beatable. But to win out there, as we did in 2011, the batting unit has to function and play at the top of their games."

Bell said that England’s misfiring batting line up has to function if the tourists are to have a chance.

“In 2011 [when England won 3-1], we had a mindset that was just, ‘we are here to win’, and we had a team that was at the top of its powers across the board,” he said.

“Everything went right for us then. For England to do that again, it is going to take a lot of hard work, but as a batting unit, we need to be scoring 500.

“If we do that, we know we have world-class opening bowlers. When we have lost there, we haven’t scored the volume of runs that you need to in Australia to be successful.”