Johnson says beware of England - even without Stokes
ENGLAND can win the Ashes - without star all-rounder Ben Stokes - says former Australian quick. Mitchell Johnson.
The chief destroyer of England's hopes in the 2013-14 Ashes whitewash, when the tearaway left-armer snared an extraordinary 37 wickets, believes it would be unwise to put a line through the tourists if Stokes is stranded at home.
Stokes' Ashes campaign remains in limbo as he awaits further information from the police investigation into a street brawl that was captured on CCTV footage in which a man was knocked to the ground - suffering cuts to his face.
Already Stokes has been left out of the initial touring party to land in Australia and there is a growing feeling that the fiery competitor will miss out altogether.
Former England batsman David Lloyd said as much in a blog for Sky Sports, writing "I think you can forget Ben Stokes, he isn't going".
Former England skippers Kevin Pietersen and Michael Vaughan accept that a Stokes-less England is a meek proposition and, essentially, a sitting duck on Australian soil, while there's been no shortage of Australian champions happy to point out how great a loss Stokes would be.
Johnson said this was a dangerous attitude.
"I don't think you can read too much into what people are commenting on 'No Stokes, no England'," Johnson said on BBC Radio Five.
"I think England can win without him. I think at a contest at that high level, anyone can win.
"If you're Australia, you don't want to be thinking they can't win because Stokes isn't there - that can bite you in the backside pretty quickly."
Neither side enters the contest in exceptional form, with Australia having recently drawn 1-1 with Bangladesh, while England has major question marks about the top order after the home series against South Africa and West Indies.
"I'm still confident that Australia can win the series, but the performances recently haven't been great from both sides," Johnson said.
"The wickets are a little bouncier and faster, so some of these new guys might find it harder, and that's where the Australian bowling attack is strong."