PAUL NEWMAN: We’re about to find out if Ben Stokes is really a superhuman and can bowl in the ashes.

The time is fast approaching when England will find out if Ben Stokes’ near-superhuman powers have extended to him to heal the wound that continues to shadow Ashes, the most anticipated since 2005.

Stokes’ left knee is the elephant in England’s room, even more so than Jofra Archer’s elbow, Jimmy Anderson’s groin, Ollie Robinson’s ankle and Olly Stone’s hamstring.

No one can be sure if the captain will be able to play a full role in the series that will define his leadership and ‘Bazball’s’ longevity like no other until he returns to the field this summer against Ireland at Lord’s. next week, unless you consider it a warm-up match and decide to wait until the first Ashes Test on June 16.

That includes the England management, who are waiting with bated breath like the rest of us to see how Stokes will fare when he returns from a spell in the Indian Premier League spent almost exclusively sitting on the bench.

“He seems to be doing well but we’ll know more when we report next week,” a locker room source told Mail Sport. He is very reserved to himself.

Ben Stokes' troublesome knee injury has raised concerns about England's bowling attack

Ben Stokes’ troublesome knee injury has raised concerns about England’s bowling attack

When we last saw Stokes in England colours, he was unable to bowl in New Zealand and was practically batting with one leg, seemingly coming to a head with the chronic injury he has somehow managed and challenged in recent years. years.

However, he assured us after the final test in Wellington that he was fit enough to go to the IPL and that he would work on his knee while in India to ensure that he could play against Australia and more importantly provide that such an important balance is missing in England. side without it.

He has since bowled one for Chennai Super Kings and apparently damaged his toe taking out his frustration on an inanimate object in the dressing room. Significantly, he looks like he hasn’t been bowling, red or white ball, in the nets.

At least he’s rested that knee and perhaps that’s enough to allow Stokes to once again defy the odds and come back with those lung-busting spells of short-pitch ‘enforcer’ type bowling that could provide Ashes’ only point of difference from England.

Certainly Brendon McCullum, for his part, remains adamant that all will be well on Ashes night with the captain, noting how much this series and the whole Test Cricket adventure mean to Stokes and that “we all know he writes his own scripts.” “.

There is no doubt that Stokes’ leadership has been the single most important factor behind England’s astonishing transformation and he is worth his place, like Mike Brearley, in the captaincy alone. Although it would be nice if he was a little less disinterested with the bat and focused on his own performance as much as everyone else’s.

But his bowling could make all the difference to England’s chances, especially as Stokes’ plans to fight fire with fire have been hit by injuries to Archer and Stone. We can only hope that those superhuman powers will soon be revealed as rarely before.

Ireland will be without their best player, Ben Little, when they face England at Lord's

Ireland will be without their best player, Ben Little, when they face England at Lord's

Ireland will be without their best player, Ben Little, when they face England at Lord’s

Small omission is crying shame

Ireland’s second Test at Lord’s should be a great occasion for them, arguably one of the biggest matches in their history alongside their Test debut on the home of cricket in 2019.

Which is why it remains perplexing that they can’t count on Josh Little next Thursday, apparently because Ireland or Little himself have decided the occasion isn’t big enough to feature their best player.

The official reason is that Little has been ‘rested’ even though he only played eight matches in his first spell in the IPL with Gujarat Titans and was fresh enough to fly back for Ireland’s ODI series against Bangladesh earlier in this month.

It seems that a historic test against Ireland is very low on Little’s list of priorities and that, more than anything, is a great shame.

Tongue rewarded but Cook misses out

Plenty to enjoy at the County Championship before it transitions to Vitality Blast for now, and as always the appearance of younger or lesser known players is prominent in that enjoyment.

Two to catch the eye of this observer are Somerset’s James Rew, a batsman-keeper of rare promise even in a position of great health in English cricket and Gus Atkinson, who has stood out among Surrey’s stars as an all-rounder of genuine promise capable of bowling. at almost 90 miles per hour and stroke play of the highest quality.

And one such player who has excelled in the Championship this year, the man who dismissed Steve Smith in his first innings for Sussex in Worcestershire’s Josh Tongue, was rewarded by being added to the England squad to face Ireland.

Lyndon James denied Sir Alastair Cook his first hundred careers at Trent Bridge

Lyndon James denied Sir Alastair Cook his first hundred careers at Trent Bridge

Lyndon James denied Sir Alastair Cook his first hundred careers at Trent Bridge

The 25-year-old Tongue has overcome injury problems severe enough to raise questions about his future in the game last year to star for England’s Lions in Sri Lanka last winter and has impressed selectors with his extra rhythm.

Now he can get his chance at Lord’s when Anderson, Robinson and Mark Wood are expected to be wrapped in cotton.

But think of the grand old man of the domestic game in Sir Alastair Cook, who looked certain to hit one of his few remaining milestones as he approached a run of his first professional hundred at Trent Bridge.

Alas, he was sacked for 99 by Lyndon James and his last chance at triple figures in one of English cricket’s great cathedrals may well be gone.