‘Excited’ Ben Stokes ready to make his England return

Chris Stocks
Evening Standard
Fit and firing: Stokes is expected to play: Getty Images
Fit and firing: Stokes is expected to play: Getty Images

Ben Stokes is set to make his long-awaited England return in Sunday’s first one-day international against New Zealand.

The all-rounder has not played for his country since the third ODI against West Indies at Bristol on September 24 after which he was arrested following a brawl outside a nightclub in the city and suspended by the ECB.

And Joe Root, the England Test captain, has revealed Stokes is “extremely excited” about playing again.

“I look at Ben now and he’s extremely excited to start playing cricket for England again,” Root told Sky Sports.

“He’s obviously a close friend of mine, I’ve played a lot of cricket with him. He’s done some magnificent things for England in the past and I look at what he’s capable of doing in the future.

“That’s the way I’m seeing Ben now, I’m sure he’s got a lot of drive and determination to put in some really strong performances in the future and to almost get back to where he was at the back end of the summer.”

Stokes missed the Ashes and then the one-day series in Australia while he awaited the outcome of a lengthy police investigation. But, after being charged in January, the ECB lifted his suspension and having flown to New Zealand last week following a court appearance in which he pleaded not guilty to a charge of affray, Stokes is now ready to return for the first of five ODIs against New Zealand. He is due to stand trial at Bristol Crown Court later this year.

Stokes’ only action since September has been six limited-overs matches for Canterbury Kings in New Zealand late last year, yet England have been pleased with his progress over the past week and are confident he is ready for a tough series against opponents who have won their past eight ODIs.

Team-mate Adil Rashid said: “We all back Stokes. We know he can go out there and give 100 per cent regardless of what’s happened.”

England won their most recent one-day series 4-1 in Australia — the only high point of a poor winter so far. But Stokes is expected to come back into the team at No 5 at the expense of either Alex Hales or Jonny Bairstow.

England will not only be strengthened by the return of Stokes but Root, Moeen Ali and Chris Woakes, all rested for the T20 tri-series against Australia and New Zealand.

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