London: England can retain the Ashes in Australia without talismanic all-rounder Ben Stokes, claimed former Aussie bowling star Mitchell Johnson.
Stokes will not travel to Australia with the rest of the England squad when they fly out next Saturday as he waits to learn whether he will face criminal charges over an incident outside a night club in September, but has not been ruled out of the five-Test series, which starts on 23 November.
However, Johnson -- the spearhead of the Aussie attack in their crushing 5-0 series win in Australia in the 2013/14 series when he took 37 wickets -- said his former team-mates should not take victory for granted if Stokes is not able to join the squad.
"I don't think you can read too much into what people are commenting on 'no Stokes, no England'," Johnson told the BBC radio programme 'Tuffers and Vaughan' hosted by former England stars Phil Tufnell and Michael Vaughan.
"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."
Johnson, 35 and who retired from all formats of international cricket in November 2015, said he still believed his compatriots would win and that the England batsmen -- many of whom are not au fait with Australian pitches -- will face a barrage from the pace bowlers.
"I'm still confident that Australia can win the series, but the performances recently haven't been great from both sides," he 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."