LONDON - Ben Stokes will discover on Tuesday whether he will be able to ride to England’s rescue as they limp towards their second tour of a demanding winter.
England’s best player is finally due at Bristol Magistrates’ Court for his first appearance after being charged with affray and is desperately hoping to be given permission to fly to New Zealand immediately after it.
Controversially, the ECB gave Stokes the green light to resume playing international cricket as soon as he was charged for his role in a fight outside a Bristol nightclub in September that cast a cloud over a doomed Ashes campaign.
But his hopes of featuring in the New Zealand leg of a Twenty20 tri-series, that has got off to the worst possible start with two defeats in Australia, were quickly dashed by his summons to appear in court on Tueday.
Now the immediate future of Stokes, who has indicated he will plead not guilty, is in the hands of Bristol magistrates who will firstly decide whether he should be tried in Crown Court and then set a date for his next appearance.
Whether Stokes will need to be there when his case continues, probably in around a month’s time, will determine if he will be able to resume his career or is destined for another setback in his much delayed comeback.
Stokes will definitely miss his first scheduled T20 game against New Zealand in Wellington on Tuesday and it remains highly unlikely that he will be able to play in Sunday’s final qualifying match in Hamilton.
Only if England win both will they definitely reach the final against an already qualified Australia in Auckland on February 21, a date that could become Stokes’ next target even though he is short of competitive cricket.
England marked their last game of a difficult Australian tour with a miserable performance. Australia won by seven wickets with 33 balls to spare at the MCG on Saturday.