By Matthew Sherry
Paul Collingwood has backed Durham team-mate Ben Stokes to shine in the Ashes if called upon.
The uncapped all-rounder was included in England's 17-man party as they attempt to defend the little urn following a 3-0 triumph in the Investec series this summer.
He will play in tomorrow’s tour opener against a Western Australian Chairman’s XI at the WACA.
Should Stokes impress and subsequently earn a spot in the England XI, he could well add an element to Alastair Cook's side that has been missing.
Indeed, not since Andrew Flintoff's retirement in 2009 have England been able to deploy a five-man attack featuring a genuine all-rounder.
Collingwood believes Stokes' talent will ensure success if a chance to feature arises.
"He has always had the talent," Collingwood told ecb.co.uk. "He is an exceptional player with huge, huge potential.
"He deserves his place on the Ashes trip and what a great opportunity. He is still very, very young at 22.
"He has huge potential and I am confident that he will have a good Ashes series. He's a strong guy and a huge competitor who loves a challenge."
Those in the north-east will certainly be rooting for Stokes, who is the only representative from LV= County Champions Durham in the England party.
Perhaps the best indication of England’s seam-bowling strength in depth is that Graham Onions was not selected despite being the most prolific Division One bowler with 70 scalps in 12 appearances this year.
The national side overlooking Onions this summer was Durham's gain, however.
"He is just a wicket-taker, simple as that; a wicket machine," enthused Collingwood. "I think the highest opening partnership against us last year was 47.
"He is just perfectly suited for our wickets but to take 70 in 12 games means you have to do it away from home as well and he always finds a way."
While Stokes is currently the only one flying the flag for England's youngest first-class county, their production line means he will not be alone for long.
"They just keep springing up from nowhere," Collingwood added. "It probably proves how strong the club circuit is in the north-east and how good the academy system is.
"We keep producing good cricketers and there are plenty more to come."