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Aussie skipper Smith hails Stokes' ability, criticises off-field behaviour

Aussie skipper Smith hails Stokes' ability, criticises off-field behaviour

Cricket - England Nets - Brightside Ground, Bristol, Britain - September 23, 2017 England's Ben Stokes during nets Action Images via Reuters/Peter Cziborra
Cricket - England Nets - Brightside Ground, Bristol, Britain - September 23, 2017 England's Ben Stokes during nets Action Images via Reuters/Peter Cziborra

(Reuters) - Australia captain Steve Smith says England's Ben Stokes is "one of the best players" in the world but he cannot condone the behaviour that led to the all-rounder being arrested for an altercation outside a Bristol nightclub.

Stokes, 26, is England's vice captain and one of their most important players, but his participation in next month's Ashes series against Australia has been thrown into doubt after he was released under investigation following the incident.

Smith would not be drawn, however, on whether Stokes should be banned from playing in the series.

"Whether he comes or not, that's out of our control," Smith told ABC Grandstand in his first public comments on Stokes' situation.

"You always want to come up against the best and test your skills against the best. That's what test cricket is all about. There's no doubt Ben Stokes is one of the best players around the world at the moment with the skills he brings to the game."

The five-test series starts in Brisbane on Nov. 23 and Smith said he hoped no Australian players ever found themselves in the same situation as Stokes.

"I certainly don't condone that kind of behaviour," he added. "Hopefully it never happens to one of our boys. I don't condone that type of behaviour. Let's hope we never cross paths with that."

(Writing by Simon Jennings in Bengaluru; Editing by Toby Davis)

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