Social media went into overdrive late Monday when a picture showing Stokes leaving London’s Heathrow airport sparked speculation he was set to join his England teammates in Australia.
The England and Wales cricket Board (ECB) poured cold water on the suggestion, saying the 26-year-old was simply heading to New Zealand to visit family.
But it soon emerged Stokes aims to play first-class cricket for Canterbury during his trip to the South Island, keeping him in shape if required for the Ashes.
“(We) have been in initial informal discussions with Ben Stokes’ representatives regarding his potential availability,” Canterbury cricket said in a statement.
Stokes is barred from international cricket as British police investigate his alleged involvement in a late-night fight outside a Bristol nightclub.
But the suspension announced in September does not apply to domestic cricket, meaning Stokes could turn out for Canterbury.
The London Times cricket writer Elizabeth Ammon tweeted that Stokes was poised to play as soon as this Sunday, when Canterbury face Otago in New Zealand’s domestic one-day competition.
— ODDSbible (@ODDSbible) November 27, 2017
The Stokes controversy rocked England’s Ashes preparations and the team slumped to a 10-wicket defeat in the first Test in Brisbane this week.
Former Australia Test captains Steve Waugh and Ian Chappell are among those who believe England can’t retain the Ashes without the hard-hitting allrounder.
Stokes was born in New Zealand but moved to England as a child when his father Gerard, a former rugby league international, took a coaching role.
Both his parents have since moved back to Christchurch, the Canterbury region’s main city.
The ECB emphasised that Stokes was on a private trip that had not been set up by the organisation.
“His travel arrangements have not been arranged by the ECB,” it said in a statement.
“He is not on his way to the Ashes, England Lions or any other official training camps with the England set-up.”
The Ashes resumes on Saturday when the day-night second Test starts in Adelaide.
Deputy skipper Rohit Sharma will lead the 15-man squad in the absence of Kohli in the one-day series starting from December 10. Pacer Sidharth Kaul was handed a maiden call-up while Shreyas Iyer was included in the ODI squad for the first-time.
Kohli had commented about the non-stop cricket India’s top players have played over the past two years and had requested the BCCI for a break during the month of December. The 29-year-old has however been included in the squad for the final Test against Sri Lanka.
India are set to depart for an extensive tour of South Africa on December 27, two days after completing their limited overs engagements against Sri Lanka.
Rohit (capt), Shikhar, Ajinkya, Shreyas, Manish, Kedar, Dinesh, MS Dhoni (wk), Hardik, Axar, Kuldeep, Chahal, Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar, Sidharth Kaul pic.twitter.com/w4GWP9weCa
— BCCI (@BCCI) November 27, 2017
Opener Shikhar Dhawan returns to the side for the final Test after being given permission to miss the second match for personal reasons. Pacer Bhuvneshwar Kumar will miss the final Test after skipping the Nagpur fixture for his impending marriage, but he will be back for the ODI series.
300-Test wickets man Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja have once again been ignored for the limited-overs series with Yuzvendra Chahal, Axar Patel and Kuldeep Yadav retaining their spots.
Virat (Capt), Vijay, Rahul, Shikhar, Pujara, Rahane (vc) , Rohit, Saha (wk), Ashwin, Jadeja, Kuldeep, Shami, Umesh, Ishant, Vijay Shankar pic.twitter.com/8hgxfTtMXU
— BCCI (@BCCI) November 27, 2017
Star all-rounder Hardik Pandya, who was rested for the Test series against the islanders, will be back for the one-day series. The selectors were also set to announce India’s squad for the tour of South Africa on Monday but have now taken a last minute call to delay the selection until the culmination of the final Test against Sri Lanka.
INDIA SQUAD FOR FINAL TEST AGAINST SRI LANKA
Virat Kohli (C), M Vijay, KL Rahul, Shikhar Dhawan, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane (VC), Rohit Sharma, Wriddhiman Saha, R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav, Ishant Sharma, Vijay Shankar
INDIA SQUAD FOR ODI SERIES AGAINST SRI LANKA
Rohit Sharma(c), Shikhar Dhawan, Ajinkya Rahane, Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey, Kedar Jadhav, Dinesh Karthik, MS Dhoni, Hardik Pandya, Axar Patel, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Sidharth Kaul.
England’s bid to retain the Ashes got off to the worst possible start as Joe Root’s men slumped to a 10-wicket defeat in the first Test at Brisbane. Australia, meanwhile, maintained their supremacy at the Gabba where they are now unbeaten in their last 28 Test matches.
The Ashes are now well and truly underway and the next month or so promises to be an exciting affair. Here, we look at the good and bad performances of the Ashes opener.
STEVE SMITH’S EPIC HUNDRED THE DIFFERENCE
He might not have been required to bat in Australia’s second innings but it was Smith’s epic unbeaten hundred in the first that paved the way for the hosts to take a 1-0 lead in the series.
With his side in all sorts of trouble in the first innings, the 28-year-old pulled dug deep to record his slowest century to date. Taking 261 deliveries to get to three figures, the 28-year-old displayed immense patience and doggedness to make sure Australia came out ahead with a first innings lead.
Following a top-order collapse, Smith was unflappable in his long vigil at the crease as he shepherded the tail in brilliant fashion. His 21st Test hundred was the difference between the two sides in the end as the hosts preserved their Gabba dominance.
NATHAN LYON WALKS THE TALK
The Australian off-spinner had ruffled plenty of feathers in the English camp ahead of the first Test with his statements about wanting to ‘end careers’ of the visitors. He might not have brought about the end of any careers in the Brisbane victory but the 28-year-old backed up his talk with a fighting performance on the field.
In perhaps the biggest turning point of the game, Lyon sent back James Vince to the dressing room with a brilliant bit of fielding to break a threatening century stand the Englishman had put together with Mark Stoneman.
The off-spinner looked lethal with the red ball as well, extracting some generous turn and bounce on the Gabba wicket to trouble Joe Root’s side. While he could muster only two wickets in the first innings for all his efforts, he was duly rewarded with a three-wicket haul in the second.
ALASTAIR COOK’S TEST TO FORGET
The former English skipper has been a mainstay at the opener’s slot for England while his partners at the top have kept revolving over the years. Mark Stoneman is the latest to partner Cook and was playing in only his fourth Test for England when he took guard at Brisbane.
With an inexperienced partner in tow, it was imperative for the senior figure to provide England with some solidity at the top. The 32-year-old veteran had a Test to forget though at the Gabba.
He was dismissed for just two runs in the first innings after edging a Mitchell Starc delivery to the slips and was the first to be dismissed in England’s second innings too after miscuing a hook against Josh Hazlewood. His twin failures meant England were playing on the back-foot for most of the match.
JAKE BALL FAILS TO IMPRESS
With star all-rounder Ben Stokes not available, Steve Finn was drafted as his replacement for the Ashes. A bad knee-injury to Finn meant Jake Ball was given the fourth-pacer’s slot in the English attack.
The Nottinghamshire pacer was largely ineffective at the Gabba with his gentle pace failing to trouble the Aussie batsmen. With hardly any swing on offer, the 26-year-old was nullified with ease. A solitary wicket while going for over four runs an over in both innings underlines the joy the Australian batsmen found against him.
England might need to look at other options after seeing Ball dealt with so comfortably at the Gabba.