Ben Stokes has been recalled to England’s 14-man squad for the three-match ODI series against India, having recovered from the hamstring tear that ruled him out of the second Test against Pakistan in May, as well as the subsequent limited-overs fixtures against Scotland and Australia.
The ODI leg of India’s tour gets underway on July 12 at Trent Bridge, the scene of England’s world-record innings of 481 for 6 against Australia earlier this month, and by then Stokes is expected to have tested his fitness by playing in the Vitality Blast for Durham against Yorkshire at Headingley on July 5.
Assuming he comes through that match unscathed, Stokes could be in line to make an early comeback in the third of England’s three T20Is against India, on July 8 at Bristol – the scene of his last ODI appearance on home soil in September 2017.
Despite his lengthy period on the sidelines, and the success of England’s white-ball team in his absence – they achieved a 6-0 clean-sweep against Australia in ODIs and T20Is this month – the England management have no doubt about Stokes’ importance to their first-choice XI.
“Ben is a three-in-one player,” Paul Farbrace said ahead of the squad announcement. “He can bowl and he is the best fielder. You are going to bring him in as soon as he is available. It might mean another shift in your batting order but he’s not a bad bloke to be coming into your team.”
Stokes’ return means bad news for Sam Billings, the Kent captain who has failed to grab his opportunities in his intermittent outings in England’s power-packed middle-order. He made 12 from 14 balls as England tripped up in their run-chase against Scotland at the Grange earlier this month, and 11 from 18 balls in his solitary outing against Australia at Cardiff, when Eoin Morgan pulled out with a back spasm on the morning of the game.
Billings will, however, get a high-profile opportunity to restate his credentials when he leads Kent in the final of the Royal London One-Day Cup, against Hampshire at Lord’s on Saturday.
England’s other notable injury absentee, Chris Woakes, has not been recalled to the squad at this stage, as he is still recovering from a torn right quad and a long-standing knee injury. However, if he proves his fitness, he could be added to the squad during the latter part of the ODI series.
Sam Curran, who made his ODI debut against Australia at Old Trafford last week, having also made a Test debut against Pakistan earlier in the season, has been excluded from the squad, with his brother, Tom, ahead of him in the pecking order now that he has recovered from a niggle.