ECB at the ready to act on Stokes
ECB confirm Stokes' playing trip to NZ does not alter his current position with England, but they're ready to act fast if he is cleared
Chris Stocks in Adelaide
28 November 2017, 07:25 PM AEST
The England and Wales Cricket Board have cleared Ben Stokes to play domestic cricket in New Zealand, heightening the feeling he will be made available for the Magellan Ashes series if British police do not charge the allrounder following his late-night altercation in Bristol in September.
Stokes was initially named in the squad for the tour of Australia but was stood down following his arrest on suspicion of causing actual bodily harm during England’s one-day series against West Indies two months ago.
The 26-year-old has yet to hear whether he will be charged by police.
But he has been allowed to leave the UK for Christchurch, where he will visit his parents.
The sight of Stokes at London’s Heathrow airport on Monday night sent speculation about his possible readmission into England’s Ashes squad into overdrive.
Nothing has changed in terms of the ECB’s position regarding Stokes. He is "unavailable for selection" for England until police decide to charge him or not. That will then trigger the ECB’s own Cricket Discipline Commission into action.
However, the board’s decision to grant Stokes a No Objection Certificate (NOC) last Friday, which cleared him to play in New Zealand, suggests a softening on their stance.
Indeed, it is understood that the ECB will convene an emergency board meeting within 48 hours once a police decision is made.
It is unclear at this stage whether the board would decide to add Stokes to England’s Ashes squad without their disciplinary commission having fully investigated the circumstances around that night out in Bristol.
But the fact it is even a possibility suggests Stokes is at least an outside chance of being parachuted into the Ashes series at some stage.
If he is, then Stokes looks likely to at least be ready after it emerged Canterbury will offer him the chance to be part of their squad.
New Zealand-born Stokes, who has been keeping himself match-ready in the nets at his county Durham, is in line to play for Canterbury against Otago Volts in New Zealand’s 50-over competition this weekend.
Canterbury Cricket Association (CCA) confirmed “initial informal discussions” had taken place with Stokes’ representatives “regarding his potential availability for Ford Trophy and Burger King Super Smash competitions”.
The club’s chief executive, Jeremy Curwin, said: “The CCA Board and New Zealand Cricket will independently be considering this issue in the near future but, until then, we are unable to provide any more detail on the status of the deliberations. As and when there are any further developments we will of course release further statements.”
Despite the developments of the past 24 hours, one thing remains clear – Stokes will not be allowed to play for England again until the police deliver their verdict.
Despite giving Stokes an NOC it is understood the ECB are none the wiser as to whether that decision is likely to come anytime soon.
However, the fact Andrew Strauss, England’s director of cricket, refused to mention the fact that Stokes had been granted his NOC when he sat down with English journalists in Brisbane on Monday afternoon is interesting.
Strauss would have had to sign off on that decision yet didn’t even give reporters an off-the-record steer.
It suggests that amid the furore surrounding Jonny Bairstow’s head-butt of Australia’s Camron Bancroft, Strauss didn’t want more negative headlines with news that another player in off-the-field strife had been given clearance to play.
It would appear England’s business is as disorganised off the field as it is on it following their 10-wicket defeat at the Gabba.
But with the squad arriving in Adelaide on Tuesday evening ahead of the second Test and an Ashes series still on the line, the temptation to bring Stokes back could prove irresistible if police do make a decision sooner rather than later.
2017-18 International Fixtures
Magellan Ashes Series
Australia Test squad: Steve Smith (c), David Warner (vc), Cameron Bancroft, Usman Khawaja, Peter Handscomb, Shaun Marsh, Tim Paine (wk), Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood, Jackson Bird, Chadd Sayers.
England Test squad: Joe Root (c), James Anderson (vc), Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow, Jake Ball, Gary Ballance, Stuart Broad, Alastair Cook, Mason Crane, Tom Curran, Ben Foakes, Dawid Malan, Craig Overton, Ben Stokes, Mark Stoneman, James Vince, Chris Woakes.
First Test Australia won by 10 wickets. Scorecard
Second Test Adelaide Oval, December 2-6 (Day-Night). Tickets
Third Test WACA Ground, December 14-18. Tickets
Fourth Test MCG, December 26-30. Tickets
Fifth Test SCG, January 4-8 (Pink Test). Tickets
Gillette ODI Series v England
First ODI MCG, January 14. Tickets
Second ODI Gabba, January 19. Tickets
Third ODI SCG, January 21. Tickets
Fourth ODI Adelaide Oval, January 26. Tickets
Fifth ODI Perth Stadium, January 28. Tickets
Prime Minister's XI
PM's XI v England Manuka Oval, February 2. Tickets
Gillette T20 trans-Tasman Tri-Series
First T20I Australia v NZ, SCG, February 3. Tickets
Second T20I – Australia v England, Blundstone Arena, February 7. Tickets
Third T20I – Australia v England, MCG, February 10. Tickets
Fourth T20I – NZ v England, Wellington, February 14
Fifth T20I – NZ v Australia, Eden Park, February 16
Sixth T20I – NZ v England, Seddon Park, February 18
Final – TBC, Eden Park, February 21