An untimely downpour put paid to Ben Stokes‘ plans for an outdoor bowl in Auckland on Monday, but he came through a five-over spell in the Eden Park indoor school and is on track to be able to bowl in the first Test against New Zealand.
An ECB spokesman confirmed Stokes had come through his spell – his first serious bowl since the one-day series finished – with “no issues” and, weather permitting, would bowl outside on Tuesday and Wednesday. After the ODIs, Stokes suffered some back stiffness and required an injection last week in Hamilton.
However, whether Stokes is able to provide a full fourth-seamer’s role in the Test could yet determine the balance of the side. He was not used for more than a five-over spell during the ODIs and has not bowled in a first-class match since the beginning of September.
It may yet be a step too far for him to be entrusted with the workload Joe Root would want from one of his quick bowlers and could require another bowler to be picked at the expense of a batsman, with Stokes batting at No. 5. That would bring Craig Overton and Mark Wood into the frame, with the former the favourite if an extra seamer is required, and mean James Vince missing out.
Meanwhile, Andrew Strauss, the director of England cricket, has praised the way Stokes has gone about his cricket since returning for the one-day series in New Zealand and expects “more match-winning performances” after he was named Man of the Match in Mount Maunganui.
“It has been a pretty fraught time for him and everyone involved in the situation,” Strauss told Sky Sports News. “It has been a very difficult one for us to deal with but thankfully I think we’re through it now.
“Ben’s doing what he does best, he’s representing England with an unbelievable amount of courage, passion, determination and motivation. He is going to put in some more match-winning performances over the coming months and remind everyone, I suppose, of what he can do in an England shirt.”
Stokes’ trial will begin on August 6, after he entered a plea of not guilty to the charge of affray following the incident in Bristol on September 25, which means he will miss the Lord’s Test against India and Strauss said a plan for the summer would be discussed when England return from New Zealand.
“We have obviously got to sit down at the beginning of the summer and plan how we are going to react to that situation. It is far from ideal that he [Stokes] is going to be missing that Lord’s Test match but I still think he has got a full role to play this summer.
“I am sure he will be very keen to get everything out of the way and have his opportunity to tell his side of the story but that is still quite a long way away in the distance. Prior to that, there is still a lot of cricket still to be played and some really important cricket to win.”