After a gap of five months, Ben Stokes resumed his England career following his not-guilty plea to a charge of affray after the incident in Bristol last September. He missed the Ashes, the one-day series against Australia and the T20 tri-series. How did his first day back on the job pan out?
1.30pm (New Zealand time)
Barring a bad reaction to his training workload, it is certain that Ben Stokes will be named in England’s XI. That is rubber-stamped when the team sheets are handed over moments before the toss. When his name is announced to the crowd there is a ripple of applause from the England supporters dotted around Seddon Park. Kane Williamson inserting England means he won’t be needed right away.
3.30pm (22nd over, England innings)
Eoin Morgan is defeated by Ish Sodhi’s googly and chips to mid-off, meaning Stokes walks out to bat for England for the first time since September 24. He has a blank bat after he lost his New Balance sponsorship following the events in Bristol. He is greeted by warm applause and is off the mark first ball with a push down the ground.
3.35pm (23rd over)
Stokes is offered an early life when he punches a low return catch to Trent Boult who can’t quite gather the ball by his bootlaces. In the next over from Sodhi, Stokes unfurls a superbly placed reverse sweep to collect his first boundary.
3.55pm (29th over)
Stokes can’t make the most of his early life. Eyeing up the leg-side boundary against Mitchell Santner he gets a big top edge that lands safely in the hands of short third man. He swishes the bat in frustration as he walks off, but from Stokes’ point of view at least he’s back up and running.
6.55pm (10th over, New Zealand innings)
His first major intervention in the field comes when Martin Guptill aims to carve Chris Woakes over the covers but finds Stokes on the edge of the circle. It’s a sweetly-struck shot, but Stokes plucks it out in front of his face then hurls the ball high into the evening sky in celebration.
7.05pm (13th over)
With New Zealand set back in their chase after three early wickets, Stokes is handed the ball after David Willey’s six-over opening spell. All the talk over the past week has been about how fit he was looking and he quickly nudges up the speedgun to 142kph [88mph] as he slides one under an attempted pull from Ross Taylor. His first spell last four overs and he goes at under four an over.
8.50pm (38th over)
England need some magic. Morgan returns to Stokes for the 38th over and the early signs aren’t promising as his first over back leaks two boundaries and 11 overall. However, Stokes then does the trick for his captain as Latham pulls to mid-on, then celebrates with a first-pump as his team-mates all jump on him. Then, in his next over, he has Colin de Grandhomme caught behind. There are signs of weariness in a loose eighth over and that is his work done for the night His two wickets appear to have put England on course for victory, but there is another twist in the tale – tellingly he is overlooked for the final over of the innings, eventually bowled by Chris Woakes.
9.30pm – Postscript
Amid the disappointment of defeat, Eoin Morgan was delighted with Stokes’ effort. “I thought he adapted to conditions perfectly well, using slower balls well and it was something that we struggled to do while their partnership evolved. Two on the bounce causes pressure in the changing room and shifts momentum a lot. He’s delighted to be back, he’s told everybody that. It’s an awesome feeling, when you’ve been away and you’re back in a fun environment, with lots of good friends around. I can vouch for that. I spend a lot of time away while the Tests are on. You come back and it puts a smile on your face.”