Ben Stokes declares himself fit to bowl in first Ashes Test

Ben Stokes bowls during England training Getty Images

Ben Stokes has declared himself fit to bowl in the first Ashes Test at Edgbaston after training with a heavily-strapped knee on each of England's three training days.

Stokes was due to bat at the start of England's nets session on Thursday but pushed his slot back in order to bowl around four overs on a training strip on the outfield, with bowling coach David Saker watching on.

"The last three days have been really good for my confidence," Stokes said at his pre-match press conference. "I've bowled every day so far and been able to run in with more intensity day by day. I've got myself in a real good place to be able to bowl."

Stokes has not bowled a ball in a competitive match since April 3, when he bowled the solitary over of his IPL season with Chennai Super Kings, and has not bowled in a first-class match since England's defeat in Wellington four months ago.

He said after that Test that he has a diagnosis as to the nature of his chronic left-knee injury but has repeatedly declined to reveal it publicly. He had a cortisone injection before travelling to India for the IPL and his exact fitness status was kept under wraps by CSK for most of the tournament.

Stokes became the first man in Test history to captain a winning team without bowling a ball, facing a ball or keeping wicket when England beat Ireland at Lord's earlier this month, but has gradually built up his bowling workloads since.

While England were on a team-bonding trip to Loch Lomond in Scotland last week, Stokes posted a short Instagram video of him bowling at St Andrews University, and has continued to ramp up over the last three days in Birmingham.

Stokes suggested that being fit to bowl throughout the series might be a struggle: "David Saker has come in and mentioned something to me last week in Scotland, saying, 'If you're still bowling by the fourth or fifth Test, we've done something right.'

"I definitely feel in a better place than I did in Wellington and even before that. Obviously every time I am out on the field, that [bowling an important spell] is what I want to do, but my body was stopping me from doing that.

"What I have done is put myself in a place where I feel a lot more capable of being able to do that. I am not going to speak too soon because who knows where I could be in two weeks' time? But hopefully I don't have to worry about that - I will worry about it when it does happen."

Stokes was asked if he would consider holding himself back in order to ensure he could still contribute with the ball towards the end of the series. "I give 100 percent of myself all the time," he replied.

He also underlined his belief that it will be "a very tough ask" for any of England's seamers to play all five Tests, with the series squeezed into a window of six-and-a-half weeks. "All our bowlers have been told to prepare as if they are playing every game," Stokes said. "It will be very likely that we will have to make some changes as the series goes on."

England named their team two days before the toss, with Stuart Broad pipping Mark Wood to the third seamer's spot due to his "incredible" record against Australia - as well as his past success against David Warner, whom he dismissed seven times in the 2019 series.

"When you say Broad, Robinson, Anderson, that is a pretty good three guys to be able to say are in your starting XI," Stokes said. "It's very hard to look past someone like [Broad], in the opening game of the series, especially against Australia. I'm very happy with the team we've ended up picking."

There is also a recall for Moeen Ali, a late-notice call-up after Jack Leach was ruled out of the summer with a lower-back stress fracture. "I had to think hard about who we would replace him with," Stokes said. "A player like Mo, who I have seen put in some unbelievable, match-winning performances - albeit a long time ago - was something I couldn't look past.

"That was a stomach and a heart feeling, rather than my brain. Generally, I have stuck with my heart and my gut throughout my captaincy so far. Moeen Ali is going to come in here and I'm looking at what he can offer on his best days - and not worrying about anything else."