Ashes: This England Test side is the 'best we have ever had' claims Andrew Flintoff

Joe Root is surrounded by his teammates during the trophy presentation after England clinched a series win against the West Indies at Lord's Cricket Ground on 9 September .Naomi Baker/Getty Images

The current England Test side is the "best team we've ever had", according to former England all-rounder Andrew Flintoff.

England's squad for the upcoming Ashes tour was widely criticised when it was named a week ago, with former players and pundits lamenting the inclusions of Gary Ballance and James Vince, both of whom have failed to impress with the national side.

The omissions of Mark Wood and Liam Plunkett were also met with criticism, as the selectors were accused of opting to field a "mono-dimensional" bowling attack, which will lack a genuine fast bowler capable of rattling the Australians.

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However, the Lancastrian, who won the Ashes in 2005 and 2009, said the doom and gloom was misplaced and backed the 16-man squad to defy expectations in the five-Test series, which begins in Brisbane on 23 November.

"It's not a case of England winning – it's by how many," the 39-year-old told BBC Radio 5 live.

"It's the type of side you'd want to be involved in, from the coach and the captain down. I think England will have a good winter.

"We've got James Anderson, who is England's best-ever bowler; Alastair Cook, England's best-ever batter. And you throw in the likes of Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow, who is fantastic – it's exciting times."

England's chances to retain the urn they won in 2015 could be dealt a serious blow should Ben Stokes still be under police investigation by the time the team heads to Australia later this month.

The 26-year-old and teammate Alex Hales were involved in a violent brawl outside a nightclub in Bristol in the early hours of 25 September. The fracas was caught on video and the former appeared to throw up to 15 punches in the incident that left him with a broken finger.

The all-rounder was subsequently arrested on suspicion of causing actual bodily harm and he was detained overnight and released under investigation.

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The police have not offered a timescale for the inquiry and similar incidents can take months to be resolved, meaning Stokes faces a race against the clock to be cleared in time by the time England leave for Australia on 28 October.

Stokes, who was handed a new central contract by the England and Wales Cricket Board on Thursday (5 October), has often been compared to Flintoff, but the latter believes the Durham all-rounder is much better than he ever was.

"He's a fantastic cricketer and it's flattering when he's compared to you," he said.

"He's such an exciting talent but so too are many of the England side."

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Meanwhile, James Anderson also believes England have the chance to spring a surprise this winter. England have won just one of the last five Ashes series played Down Under and were whitewashed in 2006-07 and in 2013-14, when Mitchell Johnson tore England's batting order to shreds.

However, Johnson, along with former captain Michael Clarke and wicket-keeper Brad Haddin, has now retired and while Australia remain heavy favourites on home soil, Anderson believe they have weaknesses.

"I see a lot of similarities in the two teams," said England's record wicket-taker.

"The transition that both have gone through in the recent past is very similar.

"There are weaknesses in both teams and they're going to try and exploit ours. It's our job to try and exploit theirs and cement the cracks we might have. If we can do that, we'll be in a good position."

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