The player’s dash across the globe to take part in his native country’s one-day domestic competition fuelled speculation he was preparing for a dramatic England call-up in time for the third Test in Perth.
But developments in England suggested his hopes of returning to bolster the struggling national side were diminishing rapidly as British police revealed a decision was yet to be made over whether he will face charges in a criminal investigation.
Police said a decision on whether to charge him over a brawl outside a nightclub had been passed to the Crown Prosecution Service – the outcome of which may not be known for weeks.
Given Stokes, 26, has not been, and may not be, convicted of any criminal offence, England could have taken him to Australia anyway on the grounds his worth to the team would justify the inevitable off-field furore.
But England and Wales cricket Board (ECB) director Andrew Strauss has repeatedly insisted cricket authorities must wait on the English legal system before deciding how to proceed with Stokes.
With the latest developments, England appear to have accepted they will not be seeing their star all-rounder play in the Ashes, even though they desperately need his talismanic presence after losing the first Test 1-0.
“That was what we thought as a group when we set off here,” said skipper Joe Root, quoted in Britain’s Daily Telegraph newspaper.
“All of our planning and preparation has been without Ben so how we go about things won’t change. I would personally love to have him back. But these things are completely out of our hands and we just have to move on.”
National selector Angus Fraser said that with all the uncertainty surrounding their star player, England could not afford to bank on the all-rounder turning up in Australia.
“If something changes then you react,” said the former Test fast bowler, speaking in London. “But I don’t think anyone is looking over their shoulder for a plane to come in to land.”
In order for Stokes, born in New Zealand, to be available for domestic cricket overseas, the ECB had to issue him with a no-objection certificate.
At the same time, the ECB upheld the suspension from England duty they imposed on Stokes following his involvement in the incident in Bristol in the early hours of September 25.
But cricket chiefs were reportedly caught by surprise when photographs emerged of him at London’s Heathrow airport with his cricket gear, not realising he had planned to fly to New Zealand so soon.
England missed both Stokes’s batting and pace bowling as well as the spirit of defiance that can lift his team-mates during their thumping 10-wicket defeat in the first Test.
They are now preparing for the second match of the five-Test series, which starts in Adelaide on Saturday.
In the meantime, Stokes is getting ready to play for New Zealand provincial side Canterbury on Sunday.
Canterbury chief executive Jez Curwin played down any link to Stokes’s Ashes ambitions.
“The Ashes series is an obvious connection. However that has not been a consideration for us or Ben at this time, he is just keen to be able to work again,” he said.
Australia captain Smith and debutant opener Cameron Bancroft conducted a slapstick post-match press conference in Brisbane, in which the latter recalled how Jonny Bairstow greeted him with a ‘head-butt’ rather than a handshake when they first met in a Perth bar several weeks earlier.
Australia had already made capital out of Bairstow’s unusual introduction when they ‘sledged’ him about it in England’s second innings, and then were delighted to see the wicketkeeper hole out to third-man as the tourists faltered badly at the Gabba.
As the series moves on to Adelaide, where the inaugural day-night Ashes Test will begin on Saturday, Root wants to think the best of Smith.
“You look at the pictures from that press conference, and I think it’s very important you’re careful how you interpret that,” he said.
“I’d like to think that Steve has a good amount of humility about him, and that he’s laughing at the scenario and the comments rather than the situation.”
Smith has confirmed publicly he was doing just that, amused by Bancroft’s dry delivery.
Root has also made clear no ‘sledging’ should ever veer towards unacceptable topics or remarks. He added: “I’d like to think they know when to stop and when too far is too far.
“If they have gone too far then it says more about them than it does about anything else.”
He is, however, broadly in favour of verbal exchanges as batsmen try to establish themselves in an innings.
“I think there is a place for a bit of banter out on the field, as long as it stays as banter and doesn’t become more than that.
“You want there to be a bit of niggle… flying around.
“That’s good for the game – it’s good to watch, it’s good to be involved in. It makes for good television.
“But there are certain things people know they should and shouldn’t say on a field, and it’s important both sides – not just one side, both sides – get that right and have enough respect for each other to not overstep any mark.”
England’s response, Root hopes, will be to produce a comeback fuelled by runs and wickets to put the sideshow back in its place.
— England Cricket (@englandcricket) December 1, 2017
“I think it’s important we move on really,” he said.
“It’s quite an insignificant part of what’s such an important series – the cricket should be the thing that’s the main focal point.
“Our responsibility as players is to make sure that, for the rest of the series, (cricket) is the stuff that’s spoken about – what we do on the field.
“That’s got to be our focus, to come back this week and have that individual performance that Steve had in the first game – and have that effect on the series.
“If one of us can do that, it should lead to us winning this week.”
Provided by Press Association Sport
The Pakistan cricket Board (PCB) is seeking $70 million in compensation from the Board of Control for cricket in India (BCCI) after the country failed to attend two series in 2014 and 2015 as part of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed between the two boards.
The International cricket Council (ICC) confirmed receiving the notice.
“The ICC has received a Notice of Dispute from the PCB’s lawyers, which will be forwarded to the Chairman of the Dispute Resolutions Committee next week,” a spokesman for the ICC said.
The ICC Dispute Resolution Committee is headed by Michael Beloff QC who will appoint independent adjudicators to hear the case.
The PCB sent a legal notice to their counterparts earlier this year but Indian officials rejected the memorandum as “a piece of paper”.
The arch-rivals have not played a full bilateral series since 2007.
New Delhi halted all bilateral sports with Pakistan in the wake of 2008 Mumbai attacks, which India blamed on militants based in Pakistan.
Those attacks, which killed more than 160 people, nearly brought nuclear-armed arch-enemies India and Pakistan to the brink of war.
The two planned series between India and Pakistan were due to take place at a neutral venue.
The Board of Control for cricket in India (BCCI) was forced to sign the MoU as it needed support from Pakistan on an ICC revamp in 2014, which gave major powers and revenues to India, Australia and India.
Under the ICC Dispute Resolution Committee terms of references, committee’s head Michael Beloff QC will appoint a three-member panel to hear the case, with Pakistan and India having the right to pick one lawyer each of their choice.
The PCB last month said it seeks 24 matches from India in 2019, 2020 and 2022 – venues to be decided once approved.
Pakistan did tour India for two Twenty20 and three one-day internationals in December 2012-January 2013 but that failed to revive the full series as relations between the two countries went from bad to worse.
Both countries, however, continued to play each other in multi-national ICC events.
Pakistan beat India in the final of the Champions trophy in London in June this year after losing the group match in Birmingham.
Provided by AFP Sport