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Unwell Ben Stokes sits out training ahead of final Test against New Zealand

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England captain Ben Stokes missed training on Tuesday, 48 hours out from the start of the Headingley Test.

Stokes was conspicuous by his absence as the rest of the squad began preparations for the final match of the LV= Insurance Series against New Zealand, having reported feeling unwell.

An England and Wales Cricket Board spokesperson indicated that Stokes had tested negative for Covid-19 in the morning and was being kept away from the group as a precautionary measure.

Stuart Broad (left) and Joe Root (right) would be possible options as stand-in captains.
Stuart Broad, left, and Joe Root, right, would be possible options as stand-in captains (Jason O’Brien/PA)

New Zealand have had several positive cases in their squad over the last couple of weeks, including Stokes’ opposite number Kane Williamson on the eve of the second Test.

As well as Williamson, the tourists have seen Henry Nicholls, Devon Conway, Michael Bracewell and two members of their backroom team return positive results since arriving in England, though all four players are fit and available to play this week.

Should Stokes’ condition prove more problematic than expected, England would need to accelerate their decision over who would stand in for him. He has not named a vice-captain since taking over the role earlier this summer, leaving an open question as to who would deputise for him.

His immediate predecessor, Joe Root, would be the obvious choice in terms of experience but having opened up on the mental toll the job had taken on him prior to stepping away he may be happier in the ranks.

That would leave senior figures like Stuart Broad, James Anderson and Jonny Bairstow as the most likely to step in.

At least one of Broad and Anderson could be rested this week, given the lack of preparation time before England’s next Test – last year’s rearranged series finale against India.

Jamie Overton and Craig Overton
Jamie Overton and Craig Overton could play at Headingley (Tim Goode/PA)

Waiting in the wings are Craig Overton and uncapped twin brother Jamie, who has been added to the squad as an extra fast bowling option.

Should both make the XI together, they would become the first ever twins to line up for England at the same time, with Jill and Jane Powell having done so in different matches for England Women.

“It would feel pretty special. It’s a moment that we’ve always wanted,” said Jamie Overton.

“At times it has looked like it’s not going to happen, so the fact it potentially could happen on Thursday is really magical.”

Craig, the older sibling by three minutes and owner of eight Test caps, added: “Every kid’s dream is to play for England, but to do it with your brother would be pretty special, especially in a Test. Hopefully it happens and we both get the nod on Thursday.”

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