England press ahead with Ashes squad announcement despite Stokes arrest

England and Wales Cricket Board director Andrew Strauss spelled out at The Oval that the squad will be named as planned on Wednesday morning and that: "The selectors have been instructed to select (it) based on form and fitness,"

On that basis, the involvement of key all-rounder Stokes - arrested on suspicion of actual bodily harm and released under investigation - can still be taken as read.

Alex Hales, like Stokes omitted from England's fourth Royal London Series match after returning to Bristol to provide witness evidence about the disorder, was an unlikely inclusion in England's winter squad in any case.

The selectors are therefore left to stick to more familiar deliberations, focusing most obviously on this summer's flaky middle-order batting.

The combined efforts of Westley, Dawid Malan and opener Mark Stoneman - the latest in a line of 12 so far to partner Alastair Cook since Andrew Strauss' retirement five years ago - have been unconvincing.

The selectors' solution when they meet on Tuesday night may well be to sacrifice one and instead accommodate a pick each for captain and coach in a 17-man squad, which would mean Gary Ballance and James Vince therefore both return.

Which of them is most suited to batting in Westley's position at number three is a moot point that could yet result in Joe Root's eventual re-elevation from four - where he has flourished of late.

Vince's return to the reckoning owes much to the travails of others rather than an especially prolific summer with Hampshire, and statistically in his Test career to date his claims are inferior to all others'.

An average of 19.27 in seven Tests up to August last year trails those of Westley, Malan and white-ball opener Hales.

Trevor Bayliss' advocacy can only help Vince's case, however, along with his right-handedness if England do decide it is Westley they wish to replace.

England's problem positions in their final XI all remain among the batsmen, but they have issues to settle elsewhere when it comes to the best back-up for a blue-chip frontline bowling attack.

Strength in depth is critical for five Ashes Tests, and England appear likely to take two specialist seam-bowling understudies as well as uncapped leg-spinner Mason Crane.

They will be tempted to include the out-and-out pace of Mark Wood, despite doubts over his recovery from a heel problem, and Jake Ball may edge out Steven Finn and the uncapped Craig Overton.

Ben Foakes is another player without any international experience who has long seemed sure to be included on this high-profile trip, preferred to Jos Buttler as wicketkeeping cover for Jonny Bairstow - and with a first-class average of almost 43 no forlorn hope to graduate as a specialist batsmen if others fall short.

Keaton Jennings may be back to claim the final spot on tour, to provide the insurance of a back-up specialist opener.

Possible England Ashes squad: JE Root (Captain), AN Cook, MD Stoneman, DJ Malan, GS Ballance, BA Stokes, JM Bairstow (wkt), MM Ali, CR Woakes, SCJ Broad, JM Anderson, JM Vince, BT Foakes (wkt), MS Crane, JT Ball, MA Wood, KK Jennings

  England's Director of Cricket Andrew Strauss says selection will go ahead as normal
England's Director of Cricket Andrew Strauss says selection will go ahead as normal