The ECB has left the door open to a recall for Ben Stokes for the third Test against India at Nottingham this week, pending the outcome of his trial for affray.
Stokes missed the second Test at Lord’s this week due to his appearance at Bristol Crown Court, and was omitted from an unchanged 13-man squad for the Trent Bridge Test, which gets underway on Saturday.
Jamie Porter and Moeen Ali have been retained alongside the 11 men who completed an innings-and-159-run victory on Sunday, a match in which Stokes’ direct replacement, Chris Woakes, was named Man of the Match for his maiden Test century and four wickets across two innings.
However, in a press release, the ECB added that they “will make an assessment of Ben Stokes’s availability after the trial in Bristol has concluded”, a turn of phrase that suggested that he could be added to the mix if the court finds in his favour.
The trial, which entered its sixth day on Monday morning, has reached the summing-up stage, with the jury expected to retire overnight to consider their verdict in a case that involves one other co-defendant, Ryan Ali. A third defendant, Ryan Hale, has already been acquitted due to a lack of evidence.
Regardless of the outcome of the trial, the ECB’s Cricket Disciplinary Commission (CDC) is due to meet within 48 hours of the verdict, to consider what sanctions – if any – should be directed at Stokes and his England team-mate, Alex Hales for their parts in the incident outside Mbargo nightclub in the wake of their ODI victory in Bristol on September 24. Hales was not on trial.
Stokes, who was withdrawn from the Ashes pending prosecution, returned to international action in New Zealand in February.
England have two days off in the wake of their Lord’s victory, and are due to reconvene at Trent Bridge on Thursday, which would be the realistic cut-off for Stokes’ inclusion in the squad, given the need to train ahead of the Test. His last involvement in the series was a three-wicket burst on the final morning of the Edgbaston Test, which sealed a thrilling 31-run win.
Speaking after the Lord’s victory, England’s captain Joe Root made light of Stokes’ absence, particularly in the wake of Woakes’ impressive return to the team.
“Ben is obviously a huge part of this squad, so it’s a miss him not being here this week,” Root said. “But what it did do was create an opportunity for Chris to come in and perform – and boy, he didn’t disappoint did he? He was outstanding.
“It’s nice to see guys really taking opportunities, and that’s something we really want to harness as an example to the guys in and around the squad – ‘when you get your chance, make it as hard as possible to leave you out’.
“It’s a great headache to have for us, going into next week.”