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Ben's ready if Aussies try to Stoke the Ashes fire

By Andy Sims

Ben Stokes claims he is ready for whatever Australia's wind-up merchants have in store for him during this summer's Ashes. The Aussies are expected to target England all-rounder Stokes, who has already been involved in a number of on-pitch bust-ups in his relatively short international career, when the Investec series gets under way in Cardiff on Wednesday.

But the 24-year-old insists he is not about to shy away from any confrontations and said: "I'm definitely expecting some feuds out on the pitch.

"I don't go looking for it and I don't go out of my way to cause an argument, but if someone comes at you on the pitch in the heat of the moment and the adrenaline is going then no one in this squad is one to shy away from it.

"We all have different ways of handling it. Some guys walk away from it and don't get involved but I'll look them in the eye and probably say something.

"I think it's a strength of mine. Being in a battle, you don't want to be the loser. I don't want to take a backward step and let them know they are on top of me, or that they can say what they want and get away with it."

Stokes does not have particularly happy memories of his only previous Ashes experience, the 5-0 whitewash Down Under 18 months ago.

But England head into this latest instalment on a high following a remarkable one-day series win and a Twenty20 triumph over New Zealand earlier this summer.

Stokes said: "My Ashes memories are not too good but we are taking a lot of confidence into this series. We are in a really good frame of mind at the moment and we want to carry on the good form that we have strung together.

"One-day cricket is now coming into Test cricket - strike rates are up to 60 or 70. We have a young middle order who like to play their shots. We have the confidence to play how we want to play, no matter what the situation.

"It's not all about hitting fours and sixes, it's about having intent in everything you do."

And all-rounder Mitchell Marsh maintains Australia will have done their homework on the whole England squad by the time the Ashes gets under way in Cardiff.

New England coach Trevor Bayliss on Wednesday named his squad for the first Investec Test, which included Yorkshire's uncapped leg-spinner Adil Rashid and seamer Steven Finn.

Australia continued their build-up with another dominant batting display against Essex at Chelmsford, where Marsh plundered a second successive century, finishing unbeaten on 136 in the tourists' 440 for six.

Marsh is hoping to play his way into contention to be included at Sophia Gardens, by which time Darren Lehmann's squad will be ready for whatever awaits them.

"I don't think it is surprising, because he (Rashid) has been doing really well, personally I don't know that much about him, but I am sure we will be doing our homework over the next few weeks," he said.

Marsh will take nothing for granted on his own Ashes selection despite another fine display at Chelmsford. The 23-year-old followed on from where he left off in Canterbury after coming in at number six to set about the Essex attack.

Marsh brought up his century with a huge shot high over the River Stand boundary. Fellow all-rounder Shane Watson also scored a rapid half-century and will hope to also get a chance to make an impact with the ball.

"It has been a nice start, and is great to contribute to this team," said Perth-born Marsh, who has seen his brother Shaun follow father Geoff into the Australia Test side.

"I am certainly not putting any pressure on myself, at the end of the day it does not matter where you bat or where you bowl, if you take enough wickets and make enough runs, the selectors are going to pick you at some stage.

"I am just enjoying it, it is a privilege to be on this tour."

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