Steven Finn will fly to Australia on Oct 28 as cover for Ben Stokes, who will miss the Ashes tour unless he is cleared by a police investigation.
The fall out from his fight in a Bristol street continued on Friday with fines meted out to three team-mates - Jonny Bairstow, Liam Plunkett and Jake Ball - for being out until the early hours of the morning with Stokes on the night of his arrest.
Stokes was told on Friday that he will not be leaving with the England squad at the end of the month with the police investigation unlikely to be concluded any time soon. His faint hopes of playing in Australia will rest on the outcome of the police action and the severity any charges he may face.
England were at pains to point out the decision not to take Stokes to Australia was for the sake of clarity for the squad and to help the management plan without their star all-rounder.
“This decision will help us in the weeks ahead and give every player and the whole England set-up the best chance to focus on the challenge ahead in Australia,” said Andrew Strauss, the England team director.
“Steven is a high-quality cricketer, with considerable experience of both international cricket and Australian conditions. The selectors believe he will add to the range of options and the squad will be further supported by the arrival of the Lions in Australia in November.”
For Finn it is a complete turnaround from four years ago when he was sent home from a tour to Australia having been deemed ‘unselectable’ due to problems with his action and a shattering loss of confidence.
It is a surprising decision to pick Finn for England, who will miss Stokes’s batting in Australia, and not necessarily his bowling. Liam Plunkett would offer more in terms of pace and ability with the bat but England must be worried about his fitness for five-day cricket given he only played two championship matches this season. The dearth of batting options at the moment ruled against choosing a batsman to replace Stokes. Picking an extra bowler retains a four man pace attack and will mean Moeen Ali, Bairstow and Chris Woakes moving up the order while Finn lengthens the tail.
The fines for Plunkett, Bairstow and Ball are a sign of Strauss cracking down, although when a team does not have an official curfew it is tricky to punish players for being out late. All three were given a written warning and a fine for ‘unprofessional conduct’ with the money going jointly to the PCA Benevolent Fund and the Hornsby Professional Cricketers’ Fund. Since the Stokes arrest most England players have kept a low profile. Only James Anderson and Mark Stoneman attended the PCA dinner on Wednesday night and Joe Root and Stuart Broad pulled out of Jos Buttler’s stag party last weekend.
Stokes was awarded a Test match central contract on Friday, as revealed by Telegraph Sport, with Alex Hales keeping his for white ball cricket. It is understood Hales has still not been interviewed by police over the incident in Bristol.
Avon & Somerset police have made it clear they will not be speeding up the investigation and will treat it the same as any other regardless of the high profile nature of those involved.
Stokes is now in limbo. Privately he has accepted his Ashes tour hopes are now over, but it is a very messy situation for all concerned. The one-day squad for the series in Australia and New Zealand in the New Year was supposed to be announced last week, but will now not be named until the end of November. England had wanted to release it early so players could plan their Twenty20 contracts for the first half of the winter. But they are now waiting to see if Stokes will be available for the ODI tour.
Where it will become tricky for the ECB is over his IPL participation. Stokes will be the most attractive player in the IPL auction next year when players will earn three-year contracts. He only signed a one-year deal with Pune and if he goes into the player pool in 2018 can expect to be wanted by several franchises which will inflate his price further. The IPL will be awash with money as well due to its new television deal and stars like Stokes will cash in.
He has been placed on indefinite suspension from England duty by the ECB, although officially they have not used the word suspension under pressure from his lawyers who fear prejudicing any judicial proceedings, and they could refuse to give him clearance to play in India. Such a move would cost Stokes a fortune and could be challenged legally. It certainly threatens to strain relations between Strauss and Stokes.
England have also relegated Mark Wood from a Test match contract to a white ball deal after a year of injuries.