Ben Stokes was back in the thick of it on Saturday in his first England training session this winter, with his captain Eoin Morgan declaring it was as if he had never been away.
England, conscious of the risk of injury so soon after a 24-hour flight from London, wanted to ease Stokes back and insisted he acted as referee for their pre-training game of football rather than rush into anything too strenuous.
But then he played a full part in their session at Seddon Park ahead of this morning’s final Twenty20 tri-series qualifier against New Zealand, taking two brilliant catches on the boundary. He tried his hand with the bat against some throw-downs but did not bowl and there was no chance of him playing today in a match England had to win comfortably to reach Wednesday’s final against Australia.
Yet England are talking of him playing in next Sunday’s first one-day international in Hamilton. Stokes has pleaded not guilty to affray following the infamous incident in a Bristol bar in September and faces a crown court trial on his return. ‘It was as if he had never been away,’ said Morgan, who declared himself fit for today’s match after a groin injury.
‘He’s been training hard and aspiring to play for the last couple of months. So it’s a big deal he’s here, not just for us but him as well. It’s been a difficult time but he’s coped well. Now there’s a good chance he’ll be fit for the first one-day game. It will depend how his body reacts.’
Morgan, who barely plays any first-class cricket now, described leg-spinner Adil Rashid’s decision not to take part in any red-ball games this season as ‘very brave’.