Ben Stokes and Alex Hales to get ECB central contracts renewed

Ali Martin
Ben Stokes and Alex Hales are having their central contracts renewed by the ECB. Photograph: PA Wire/PA

Ben Stokes and Alex Hales will see their central contracts renewed by England this week but the former’s hopes of being part of the winter’s Ashes defence continue to hang in the balance.

Deals for England’s international teams that cover the 2017-18 period will be announced on Friday and though the pair remain suspended indefinitely pending the outcome of a police investigation into the early-hours altercation in Bristol 10 days ago, their status with the England and Wales Cricket Board remains unaffected.

With no cricketing reason to change their arrangements – and the ECB loth to pre-judge a police investigation into the incident during the one-day series with West Indies – Stokes will continue on both the top-level Test contract and its limited-overs equivalent, while Hales will remain on the latter.

This renewal is not unexpected and does not give any indication as to the chances of Stokes being part of the England squad that travels to Australia. The all-rounder, who was arrested at 2.35am on 25 September on suspicion of causing actual bodily harm, before being released under investigation, must first wait to discover whether he will be charged or not.

Only then can the ECB’s internal disciplinary proceedings begin. But Avon and Somerset police are not expecting the investigation to be completed for another two to three weeks – an appeal for two witnesses is yet to bear fruit – and so there will likely be just a few days for any sporting sanction to be decided before the team departs for Perth on 28 October.

Hales, who was present at the time of the incident and like Stokes has been interviewed under caution this week, is not part of England’s Ashes squad but any cricket punishment could affect his upcoming deal to play Twenty20 cricket in South Africa’s domestic tournament next month.

Australia, meanwhile, have suffered a sizeable Ashes setback of their own before the five-Test series that begins in Brisbane on 23 November after it was revealed James Pattinson will miss the entire campaign owing to an aggravation of a lower-back stress fracture.

Pattinson had been a doubt for the first Test after missing the tours of Bangladesh and India and scans have confirmed a serious injury. He will now take an indefinite break from bowling. The news dashed their hopes of fielding him alongside Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood in a fearsome four-pronged pace attack.

“Regular scans and recent imaging has confirmed that James has begun to re-aggravate his previous lower-back stress fracture,” said Alex Kountouris, Cricket Australia’s sports science and sports medicine manager. As such, he has discontinued bowling as part of his recovery, which unfortunately means he will be unavailable for the beginning of the Sheffield Shield and the Ashes campaign. Whilst this is very disappointing that James has re-aggravated this old injury, we are confident he can recover.”

The 27-year-old reported pain in his back shortly after returning to Australia following a stint in county cricket with Nottinghamshire and he has not played any form of cricket since helping them to victory over Surrey in the Royal London One-Day Cup final on 1 July. Pattinson took 32 wickets in five County Championship Division Two matches at a remarkably low average of 12.06.

Pattinson said: “I am extremely disappointed with this setback after just getting back into a good run of playing cricket. I’m especially disappointed to miss out on the possibility to play in a home Ashes series. Over the next few weeks I will discuss all available options available to me with medical staff, to work out the best plan to prevent this from happening again.”

Jack Burnham, meanwhile, faces a 12-month ban after testing positive for a recreational drug. Durham announced yesterday that the 20-year-old batsman had failed a test after supplying a hair sample in September.

The news of an impending ban for their promising player is another blow for the club. Since they were relegated to Division Two of the County Championship a year ago as part of an ECB bailout, several players have left to further their careers . Durham have made it clear they will support Burnham during his suspension, as has the Professional Cricketers’ Association.

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