England must forget Ben Stokes and focus on Adelaide, Smith and Starc | Jason Gillespie

Stokes’ New Zealand trip is a sideshow – what matters for England in the Ashes is working out how to dismiss Steve Smith and how to counter Mitchell Starc’s pink-ball expertise

Let’s be honest, Joe Root and his players needed the Ben Stokes issue resurfacing this week like a hole in the head. When I wrote at the start of the tour that they should draw a line through his name completely, this was the type of scenario I envisaged.

Here are England’s squad battling hard to defend the Ashes and suddenly the agenda changes with the latest will?he-won’t-he-play saga. Publicly they will say they are 100% focused on the day-night Test that starts on Saturday and squaring the series. But with their suspended mate pitching up in New Zealand to play some cricket – I’m not buying the “private family holiday” nonsense – questions have followed the players at every juncture and a level of distraction is inevitable.

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