Vodafone Men's Ashes
Nets session stokes hopes Ben may be fit for Ashes
England's talismanic allrounder Ben Stokes has returned to the nets for the first time since taking an indefinite break from the game, with the first Ashes Test just 54 days away
15 October 2021, 08:11 AM AEST
England's premier allrounder Ben Stokes has returned to the nets for the first time since he took an indefinite break from the game to focus on his fitness and wellbeing.
While Stokes did play in the Hundred, he was absent from the summer's marquee Test series against India and will also miss the forthcoming T20 World Cup, while continuing to concentrate on his mental health.
He was not named in England's 17-player Ashes squad to tour Australia, but his return to action – albeit facing gentle throwdowns – is likely to fuel speculation he could still feature in the five-Test series that begins in Brisbane on December 8.
After also suffering a fracture to his left index finger at the Indian Premier League in April, necessitating surgery, Stokes had still been struggling with lingering discomfort in the area when aborting a tentative comeback in July.
He had a second operation on October 4 to remove two screws and scar tissue and is said to be in better spirits, posting a picture of himself on Instagram on Monday gripping a bat properly for the first time in six months.
He went a step further by taking part in what looked like a gentle net session on Thursday, uploading three Instagram videos where he was receiving some throwdowns from England physiotherapist Craig De Weymarn.
Stokes said: "Great to be back hitting balls."
England have stressed repeatedly they will not pressure Stokes into a return, with head coach Chris Silverwood and captain Joe Root taking a hands-off approach, and the England and Wales Cricket Board's performance director Mo Bobat echoed those sentiments on Thursday.
"It's hugely positive and hugely exciting," said Bobat.
"Certainly it looks like the extra medical stuff that has happened and the removal of scar tissue and everything else he had done has freed up his finger and it's given him that feeling of confidence again back into his fingers.
"Ultimately given what he's experienced and where he's been, it's important that he and we move at the right pace for him. There's certainly no pressure or expectation from us.
"It's a case of us supporting Ben physically and however else we need to support but support him so that he can continue to progress at the rate that he would like to and he feels comfortable."
Vodafone Men's Ashes v England
First Test: December 8-12, The Gabba
Second Test: December 16-20, Adelaide Oval
Third Test: December 26-30, MCG
Fourth Test: January 5-9, SCG
Fifth Test: January 14-18, Perth Stadium