Controversial all-rounder Ben Stokes has been withdrawn from England's Ashes squad, pending further investigation into his alleged street brawl in Bristol last month, with pacer Steven Finn stepping into the squad for the full five-Test series, starting from November 23. "With the Ashes just around the corner, it's important to give the players, the coaching staff and supporters some clarity around a complex situation," Director of England Cricket, Andrew Strauss said in a statement.
"This decision will help us in the weeks ahead and give every player and the whole England set-up the best chance to focus on the challenge ahead in Australia.
Stokes was, however, retained in the list of England and Wales Cricket Board's (ECB) 2017-18 central contracts and could make the squad if no further police action is taken.
"We have spoken to Ben and assured him that our decision in no way prejudges the outcome of the ongoing Police investigation or Cricket Discipline Commission process, as can be seen by the award of central contracts," Strauss said.
England batsman Alex Hales, who was also a part of the brawl with Stokes, has also been retained in the list of contracted players for the limited overs formats.
A statement from the ECB confirmed that three other players who were out drinking with Stokes and Hales during the recent ODI series against the West Indies, on September 25 - namely Jonny Bairstow, Jake Ball and Liam Plunkett - have accepted a formal written warning and a fine for unprofessional conduct.
Commenting on the selection of Finn in the Ashes squad, Strauss said: "Steven is a high-quality cricketer, with considerable experience of both international cricket and Australian conditions. The Selectors believe he will add to the range of options and the squad will be further supported by the arrival of the Lions in Australia in November."
The first Ashes Test will be played from November 23-27 at the Gabba in Brisbane followed by Tests in Adelaide from December 2-6, Perth (December 14-18), Melbourne (December 26-30) and Sydney (January 4-8).
(With IANS Inputs)