|| AFP ||
England captain Ben Stokes said on Wednesday he believes he has given himself the "best opportunity" to bowl against Australia in this season's Ashes series.
The all-rounder has been managing a longstanding left knee problem which flared up during February's tour of New Zealand.
Stokes's recent stint in the lucrative Indian Premier League yielded just two appearances for the Chennai Super Kings, where the paceman bowled only one over for 18 runs.
But speaking on the eve of England's Test against Ireland at Lord's, the 31-year-old was optimistic he could feature with the ball again when the five-match Ashes contest starts on June 16.
"The knee is in much better place than it was in Wellington," Stokes told reporters.
"I've been over in India for the IPL and these last eight or nine weeks I know I have got myself in a position where I can't say I regret anything.
"I have got myself into a place where I feel like in a 2019, 2020 space in terms of my own body and fitness. I have definitely given myself the best opportunity (to bowl this summer).
"We know what it is (the problem) and now it is about managing it."
Stokes was one of the standout performers the last time the Ashes were staged in England four years ago, his superb unbeaten century guiding the hosts to an incredible one-wicket win at Headingley during a series that ended 2-2.
Asked what the Ashes meant to him, he replied: "It is just the history and what the Ashes is. We're lucky enough as English players and Australian players to be the only ones able to play in it.
"It is one of those series that has got unbelievable history and will continue to capture the imagination of the whole world. We all know what the Ashes means."
But before the latest historic showdown with Australia, Stokes and company must focus on their four-day Test against Ireland.
England have selected just three frontline quicks, including debutant Josh Tongue, while the likes of James Anderson and Ollie Robinson are rested prior to the Edgbaston opener with Australia.
"Tonguey has been someone who has been spoken about even since he first came on and played for Worcestershire," said Stokes of the 25-year-old.
"Having someone who is able to bowl with that extra pace so he can come on and change the way the game is going and have that X-factor, is always great to have in your side."