Ben Stokes says he “lived every moment” of this winter’s Ashes and was “just as gutted” as his England team-mates as they crashed to a 4-0 defeat to Australia in his absence.
Stokes missed the five-match Test series, as well as the subsequent limited-overs campaign Down Under, due to an ongoing court case for his alleged part in a late-night incident in Bristol in September.
The 26-year-old, who has since been charged with affray and is awaiting a trial this summer, having pleaded not guilty, admits it was not easy for him to watch England’s struggles from afar as they surrendered the urn.
He told the Guardian: “I lived every moment of the Ashes. I’m sure it was nowhere near the emotions of the guys out there but I was just as gutted.”
The Durham all-rounder’s five-month international exile ended in February when he featured in England’s ODI series against New Zealand.
Stokes scored only 12 in his first game back, while taking two for 43 off eight overs with the ball, as England slipped to a three-wicket loss in their opening ODI.
However, he produced a man-of-the-match display in the second match, with his 63 not out helping England level up the series – before going on to clinch a 3-2 win overall.
Stokes admits it was an emotional time for him.
He said of his first game back: “I was anxious. I was guilty of thinking too far ahead and trying to make an impression. It was like I was at the start of my career.
“I was really emotional after getting man of the match in that second game back. It was such a relief to perform and be there at the end. I had five minutes to myself after getting back to the dressing room, sat in my bubble and taking it all in. The lads appreciated that and gave me space. It was a great feeling.”
Stokes also played in both Tests against New Zealand, where England’s miserable recent away record continued with a 1-0 series loss that included being bowled out for just 58 in Auckland.
England have now won just one Test series overseas since 2012, something Stokes – who believes they have “slacked off” – is hoping to help rectify.
He said: “I just want to get us back to playing the way we want to play.
“We were so close to being one of the best teams in the world. We’ve slacked off in the past two years but knowing how close we were gives you that desire to get back there.”
Provided by Press Association Sport