England cricket all-rounder Ben Stokes has fired back at Australian legend Matthew Hayden after the former opening batsman took aim at the tourists' lesser-known members.
Speaking in a podcast on Monday, Hayden said: "The Poms are a rabble. I look down their list of players and I honestly don't even know who half of these guys are.
"What they have got is some extremely experienced fast bowlers in [Stuart] Broad and [James] Anderson. You have two particularly good batsmen as well in [Alastair] Cook and Joe Root.
"Apart from that - you throw a blanket over those four - who are they?"
Stokes bit back on social media, questioning Hayden's take on his teammates. "Hayden says he doesn't know who half our squad is ... only 2 from the squad haven't played at international level ... he's a cricket pundit yeah??"
Hayden urged Australia's fast bowler to "break" England's backbone and said if the four quality players he mentioned don't stand up, all hope is lost for the visitors.
"If I was the captain I'd be saying to Mitch Starc that when those four [English] players are there, you are just there to break them," Hayden said. "Whatever it takes, break them, especially at the Gabba.
"If any one of those guys go, England have got no hope. And I don't think they have any hope anyway."
Players like Mark Stoneman, James Vince, Dawid Malan, Jake Ball and Craig Overman will be largely unknown to an Australian audience but have the perfect opportunity to make a name for themselves in the Ashes cauldron.
What role Stokes will play in the Ashes is as yet unknown. The 26-year-old didn't fly to Australia and is waiting to see whether police press charges after he was involved in an ugly brawl on a night out in Bristol in September.
The England and Wales Cricket Board stood down Stokes indefinitely as CCTV footage emerged showing him punching a man, sending him tumbling to the ground.
Legendary England all-rounder Ian Botham defended Stokes and said he will be sorely missed if he is absent for the entire series.
"I've seen the video footage, we have had the two guys come out and say he intervened when these guys were getting stuck into them verbally," Botham said yesterday.
"A guy takes a swing at you with a bottle a couple of times, I think you're entitled to finish it off.
"Any side would miss Ben Stokes. He is the hottest property in world cricket at the moment. He is a fantastic player."
Warner shrugs off neck pain
David Warner insists he'll be fit for the Ashes opener after suffering a neck injury that left him "quite sore" and struggling to bat in the Gabba nets.
Warner took part in fielding drills yesterday at the Brisbane Cricket Ground, but twinged his neck while taking a catch, immediately calling for assistance from the team physio.
Australia's vice-captain attempted to bat after an extended break but lasted only two throwdowns before he trudged off to the rooms for treatment.
"My neck is quite stiff," the aggressive opener said. "Something twinged in my neck.
"I'm getting a bit of physio treatment at the moment and hopefully it settles down in the next 24 or 48 hours.
"I don't think a sore neck is going to keep me out."
Warner will aim to have a hit today before the series starts tomorrow in Brisbane.
"It's quite sore," he said. "I haven't really had a stiff neck like this one but I'll get some treatment tonight, get some heat packs on it and some fingers into it."
- additional reporting AAP