Allrounder Ben Stokes said England have already set in motion the planning for their Ashes tour of Australia next year with almost 18 months before the series actually gets underway.

With cricketing world coming to a standstill amid coronavirus pandemic and plenty of cricket still to be played before the next Ashes series, Stokes doesn’t feel it’s too early to be talking about that.

“We built up to the World Cup with a four-year plan, and we’ve been talking about touring Australia already, since Spoons [Chris Silverwood] took the (head coach’s) job,” Stokes told Sky Sports podcast. “We have already started planning as to what the best team is going to look like.”

England lost to New Zealand 0-1 in a two-Test series last year before beating South Africa 3-1 and Stokes is might impressed by the current crop of cricketers saying the future “looks really good.”

“I’ve been very impressed,” Stokes said of England youngsters. “(Dom) Sibley knows his limitations, but we want him to play his way and bat long – which he has done on quite a few occasions now, like in Cape Town, setting things up for us to win that game. He looks like he can be successful and take over from what [Alastair] Cooky used to do for England, which is be boring and just bat people into the ground.”

“With Crawley, you watch him bat, and you just think this kid has got so much talent. He has everything and he doesn’t seem to be fazed by much. He’s 21 years old and had Kagiso Rabada running in at him, bowling 90mph and he just stared him down/

“The future looks really good with our Test team. The great thing is, all the new people are pretty young,” he added.

Stokes defended teammate and fellow fast bowler Jofra Archer who has copped some criticism after less-than-impressive tours of New Zealand and South Africa after making a splash at the ODI World Cup and Ashes in England.

“When you play at international level, you put yourself open to criticism,” Stokes said. “I think everyone forgets how young somebody is, or how inexperienced, as soon as they don’t do well. Jofra came in on the back of a brilliant World Cup, came into the Ashes – lit it on fire – and then as soon as it didn’t quite go as well for him, people started jumping on his back.”

He continued, “Regardless of how he started, throughout somebody’s career, there are always going to be highs and lows. People need to remember that. It’s the same with the other new guys coming into the team; (Zak) Crawley, (Ollie) Pope, (Sam) Curran. They will go through that stage.”