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Lyon-Stokes to reignite Ashes rivalry in county clash

England Test captain set to make first appearance for Durham this season as Aussie off-spinner returns for Lancashire

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Ashes foes Nathan Lyon and Ben Stokes are set to do battle on the County Championship this weekend as the England captain ramps up his preparation for their home Test summer.

Stokes, who opted out of England's T20 World Cup defence to return to full fitness as an allrounder, will play his first match since the fifth Test against India in March when Lancashire host Durham in Blackpool from Friday.

The 32-year-old hasn't played for Durham since 2022 when he blasted 17 sixes in an 88-ball 161 in a match against Worcestershire. He also took 4-72 against Middlesex at Lord's in the last of his three matches that season.

All 17 sixes: New England captain Stokes' incredible county blitz

But Stokes has battled a persistent left knee injury since, which has hampered his ability to bowl and meant he played no county matches in the lead up to last year's Ashes.

The mercurial allrounder only bowled five overs in during England's tour of India earlier this year – all in the final Test where he dismissed Rohit Sharma with his first delivery – and made himself unavailable for the T20 World Cup in June to build his "bowling fitness back up to fulfil a full role as an allrounder in all formats of cricket".

Since returning from India, Stokes has been building towards a county return and has been spotted building up his bowling workloads during several of Durham's matches this season.

England play three Tests each against West Indies and Sri Lanka during the northern summer, beginning at Lord's against the Windies on July 10 which will be James Anderson's final Test.

Durham head coach Ryan Campbell confirmed Stokes' return on BBC Radio Newcastle.

"We're looking forward to welcoming England captain Ben Stokes back into our team for the first time – it will be absolutely awesome," the former Australia and WA gloveman said.

"I suggest if you've got a few days over the weekend, you get down to Blackpool and watch the great Ben Stokes return for Durham.

"Players always want to play against the best players in the competition. To have one of those players in our own team to show us the way, his experiences, it's unbelievable.

"Suddenly, there's an air of excitement around the place just because he walks in the room."

Lyon bowls for Lancashire against Kent at Old Trafford earlier this month // Getty

Lyon was rested from Lancashire's trip to Trent Bridge last weekend as part of the club's workload management agreement with Cricket Australia, which was emerging spinner Tom Hartley's last match before his international commitments with England's T20 side.

Despite missing the nine-wicket loss to Nottinghamshire, Lyon remains winless but Lancashire's leading wicket-taker this season with 12 scalps at 26.91 in three completed matches.

The 36-year-old Test off-spinner reignited the Ashes rivalry during his week off, claiming Australia would have won last year's series 4-0 if he'd been available for the entire campaign.

Lyon missed the last three Tests of the 2023 Ashes after injuring his calf at Lord's as Stokes' side overturned as 2-0 deficit to draw the series 2-2.

"I have been part of two teams that retained the Ashes here," Lyon told BBC Sport, "but 100 per cent, the bucket-list dreams for me are to win Test series here (in England) and in India."

Durham will also have Peter Siddle in their line-up with the veteran seamer claiming three wickets in his first match of the county season last weekend after replacing the injured Scott Boland.

Victorian teammate Peter Handscomb, fresh off a century at Lord's, is set to return to action this weekend after Leicestershire's bye when they host Cameron Bancroft's Gloucestershire, who also hit a hundred in his side's first County Championship victory in almost 20 months last weekend.

Matthew Renshaw's Somerset is also coming off a bye as they host Wes Agar's Kent in Taunton.

2024 Division One County Championship standings

Team
Matches played
M
Wins
W
Losses
L
Drawn
D
No results
N/R
Deductions
Ded.
Batting Bonus
Bat
Bowling Bonus
Bowl
Total points
PTS
1 Surrey Surrey SRY 6 4 0 2 0 0 16 18 114
2 Essex Essex ESS 5 2 1 2 0 0 12 14 74
3 Somerset Somerset SOM 5 1 0 4 0 0 11 13 72
4 Nottinghamshire Nottinghamshire NOT 5 1 1 3 0 0 11 14 65
5 Durham Durham DUR 5 1 0 3 1 0 8 5 61
6 Worcestershire Worcestershire WOR 6 0 2 4 0 0 13 16 61
7 Warwickshire Warwickshire WAR 5 0 1 4 0 0 15 12 59
8 Kent Kent KEN 5 1 1 3 0 0 5 11 56
9 Hampshire Hampshire HAM 5 0 1 3 1 2 7 7 44
10 Lancashire Lancashire LAN 5 0 3 2 0 0 5 10 31

M: Matches played

W: Wins

L: Losses

D: Drawn

N/R: No results

Ded.: Deductions

Bat: Batting Bonus

Bowl: Bowling Bonus

PTS: Total points

Australians in the 2024 County Championship

Durham: Ben Dwarshuis, Ashton Turner (both T20s only)

Essex: Daniel Sams (T20s only)

Glamorgan: Marnus Labuschagne

Gloucestershire: Cameron Bancroft, Beau Webster

Hampshire: Michael Neser, Ben McDermott (T20s only)

Kent: Wes Agar, Charlie Stobo, Xavier Bartlett (T20s only)

Lancashire: Nathan Lyon, Chris Green (T20s only)

Leicestershire: Peter Handscomb, Marcus Harris

Northamptonshire: Chris Tremain

Somerset: Matthew Renshaw

Surrey: Sean Abbott, Spencer Johnson (T20s only)

Sussex: Nathan McAndrew, Daniel Hughes