Concerns continue over England captain Ben Stokes’ fitness to bowl, less than three weeks before the start of the Test summer.
Stokes’ long-standing left knee injury flared up during February’s tour of New Zealand, after which he spoke of his frustrations at being unable to contribute with the ball and his desperation to be back at full capacity in time of the Ashes in June.
But his time with Chennai Super Kings in the Indian Premier League has proved difficult, playing just twice for the franchise and sending down a solitary over at the cost of 18 runs.
The 31-year-old subsequently picked up a toe problem and a further unspecified “setback” before being kept on the sidelines once available again.
CSK have preferred another English all-rounder, Moeen Ali, in one of their overseas slots, partly due to pitches suiting his off-spin better, but head coach Stephen Fleming has shed further light on the matter.
Speaking after his side’s defeat to Kolkata Knight Riders on Sunday, the New Zealander suggested Stokes’ seamers were not currently an option and that he was instead being viewed as a specialist batter ahead of the final group stage match.
“But with Moeen bowling well in good conditions – we go to Delhi [next] which has been turning – we think the balance of the side has been right. We’re second on the table, so it’s not our style to chop and change just because we’ve had a loss where things didn’t go our way. “
Responding to worries over Stokes’ IPL trip at the end of the drawn series in New Zealand, England’s head coach Brendon McCullum – a former CSK player – said: “The Chennai set-up is excellent in looking after their players and they’ve a very good medical team. He will be well looked after. I’ve no concerns that the skipper will be totally looked after.”
Stokes is expected to fly back to England next weekend in preparation for the stand-alone Lord’s Test against Ireland, starting on June 1, but it appears unclear if he will risk himself as part of the attack. The first Ashes Test at Edgbaston follows on June 16.
“Ben’s ability to bowl overs at the moment is still a bit of a challenge, but he’s there as that batting cover,” said Fleming.
There are already a number of headaches among England’s seam ranks, with James Anderson withdrawing from Lancashire’s game against Somerset after picking up a groin complaint on day one, Jofra Archer departing the IPL with discomfort in his troublesome elbow and Olly Stone suff Ering a hamstring injury on duty for Nottinghamshire.
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