Ben Stokes
England appointed Ben Stokes as their Test captain last year Getty

Former England captain Nasser Hussain has offered blunt advice to Ben Stokes, urging the English skipper to be honest with himself and the entire team about his chances of bowling in The Ashes.

England, who have not won The Ashes since 2015, are set to host the five-match series, starting from June 16 at Edgbaston, Birmingham.

Stokes' recent injury concerns

Stokes, who is set to captain for the first time in The Ashes, has been dealing with knee issues since February when England toured New Zealand. He won the Indian Premier League (IPL) medal with the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) despite playing just two games before returning home. Although Stokes looked fine at training, he neither batted nor bowled in England's one-off Test against Ireland and he also experienced some discomfort while fielding.

In his recent column in Daily Mail, Hussain claimed that Stokes would do well in the Edgbaston Test as he appeared to be without any pain and in good form during England's latest training sessions. Adding further, Hussain pointed out that the Englishman's cautious fitness work during the IPL in India could have benefitted him.

"Stokes has to be honest. If he can't bowl in a Test, he will have to tell England and they may have to then change the balance of the side. But that does become incredibly tricky because Stokes is two cricketers and with the captaincy, he is now three cricketers," Hussain wrote.

"He had looked as good in the outfield as I've seen him in a long time and I watched him bowl before play for about 20 minutes when he appeared pain-free. So my gut feeling is that he will perform at Edgbaston next week how he has done for some time now - Stokes will bowl when he has to," the cricketer-turned-commentator added.

But Hussain also highlighted that Stokes is facing problems while moving sideways on the field, which was more than evident during the Test against Ireland, which England won by 10 wickets in three days. Stokes struggled while diving and in subsequent movements and one such particular instance was when he caught Irish all-rounder Curtis Campher.

"But it seems moving sideways creates the problem with his knee and the first concern on the third day at Lord's came when he dived and then moved gingerly afterwards. Then he got into that position while catching Curtis Campher that clearly affected him," added Hussain.

Last year, across 15 Tests, Stokes picked up 26 wickets with 4 for 33 being his best figures, while he also contributed 870 runs with the bat.

Moeen Ali comes out of retirement

Meanwhile, another England all-rounder Moeen Ali, who had called it quits in Tests, recently made a dramatic return to the longest format after accepting a request from England to bring himself out of red-ball retirement for the Ashes.

Moeen last played a Test in September 2021 and announced he was retiring from the format. However, following an injury to spinner Jack Leach less than two weeks before the start of The Ashes against Australia, England asked Moeen to come back and fill the void in their spin department for the crucial series. It was understood that it was a collective decision by England head coach Brendon McCullum, captain Stokes, and managing director of England men's cricket Rob Key.

England opted to ask Moeen to come out of retirement instead of pursuing either of the two spinners they played during their tour of Pakistan: Rehan Ahmed of Leicestershire and Surrey's Will Jacks. England also did not go for a more like-for-like replacement from the county game, such as Liam Dawson.

With Moeen being drafted into England's XI for the first Test, their batting will be further strengthened. Interestingly, England are set to go with the same No. 7-8 combination of Jonny Bairstow and Moeen with which they took on Australia in 2019.