Ashes fears for Olly Stone after third back stress fracture ends fast bowler’s summer

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Olly Stone – Ashes fears for Olly Stone after third back stress fracture ends England fast bowler’s summer - PA
Olly Stone – Ashes fears for Olly Stone after third back stress fracture ends England fast bowler’s summer - PA

England fast bowler Olly Stone has been ruled out for the rest of the summer with a stress fracture of the back, dealing England a major blow for their five-match Test series against India and, potentially, this winter’s Ashes series too.

Stone is highly regarded within the England set-up for his 90mph pace bowling, and took three for 97 in the match against New Zealand last week, displaying a threat with the old ball on a flat pitch. He has taken 10 wickets at just 19 apiece in his three Tests so far, and was widely praised for taking four wickets in the second Test in Chennai in February.

But Stone’s third back stress fracture in as many years is a major concern. He has been identified as a crucial bowler for England in the years ahead, including for this winter’s Ashes, with his pace seen as a vital asset in more benign batting conditions.

England have long hoped to attack Australia with three 90mph quicks this winter. But Stone’s injury, coupled with Jofra Archer’s recovery from a right elbow injury – he is unlikely to be fit for the first Test against India on Aug 4 – leaves two of England’s 90mph trio currently injured, with only Mark Wood fit.

Aged 27, Stone was seen to be entering his prime years.

Stone also figures prominently in England’s plans in white-ball cricket, building up to October’s T20 World Cup. He would have featured in England’s squad for the one-day international series against Sri Lanka, which begins on June 29, after which England also play three T20s against the same opponents.

But Stone’s injury has afforded Sussex’s left-arm quick George Garton a first call-up to the senior national squad at the age of 24.

“We have been monitoring the progress of George Garton for quite some time,” said England head coach Chris Silverwood. “He has been a significant part of Sussex’s bowling unit in white-ball cricket for an extended period. His ability to bowl quick with his point of difference being a left-armer certainly gives us options in this series, and he deserves his chance at this level.”

Ben Stokes is also continuing his comeback from injury, and is set to play for Durham against the Birmingham Bears in the T20 Blast on Sunday.

Stokes’s return is being carefully managed, and England hope that he will make his international return in the three-match T20 series against Pakistan, which begins on July 16.

But England hope that Stokes plays a County Championship match for Durham before then, with his return to full fitness seen as essential to England’s hopes of regaining the Pataudi Trophy in their Test series against India.