Ben Stokes and Alex Hales to get new England central contracts despite suspension

David Clough
New deal: Ben Stokes to have England deal renewed: Getty Images

Ben Stokes and Alex Hales' status as centrally-contracted England players is set to be confirmed despite their ongoing suspension from selection for all international fixtures.

Stokes' name, especially, is sure to be the most notable when the England and Wales Cricket Board announces on Friday morning which players will be contracted for the next 12 months.

There are no cricketing reasons why the Test vice-captain and the one-day international opener should not both retain their respective England deals.

Stokes' Ashes prospects, however, remain in jeopardy as - with time running desperately short - England await the telling next stage in a police investigation following his arrest on suspicion of causing actual bodily harm.

His hopes of boarding the plane with the rest of Joe Root's squad appear to fade with every day that ticks by to the departure date of October 28.

He is currently in England's squad but, along with Hales, suspended from selection until further notice following the disorder outside a Bristol nightclub and the key all-rounder's subsequent arrest 11 days ago.

The 26-year-old was released without charge but under investigation by Avon & Somerset Police, and two days later England picked him as planned in their Ashes squad and retained him as vice-captain.

The next update in police inquiries is unlikely to come before mid-month at the earliest.

ECB director of cricket Andrew Strauss announced last week the governing body's own disciplinary investigation into Stokes and Hales following the disturbance in the early hours of September 25 in the Clifton Triangle area of Bristol.

But it was only after a video allegedly showing footage of the incident was then posted on the Sun's website that the ECB suspended both from future selection, pending a Cricket Discipline Commission inquiry.

Stokes' chances of heading to Australia at the end of this month therefore appear slim.

With or without him, England know they will in any case have to overcome challenges on and off the pitch down under - as all-time leading wicket-taker James Anderson has spelled out.

The 35-year-old is a veteran of three Ashes tours, two which ended in whitewash defeats and in between a famous series victory in 2010/11.

"Once we get there, the only focus will be beating Australia, but there are always distractions when we tour there," said Anderson, who will arrive with a national-record 506 Test wickets to his name.

"What we need to do as a team, whether things happen or not, the next few weeks is about getting yourself ready - as an individual - to play in an Ashes series."

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