Preview: All-rounder Ben Stokes is expected to make his long-awaited England return in a one-day international against New Zealand on Sunday, ending an absence that stems from an incident in Bristol last September which led to him being charged with affray.
Stokes, who had been named in several England squads but subsequently ruled out of due to the ongoing legal process, entered a not guilty plea when he appeared in court on 13 February and then joined the team in New Zealand.
He has not played for England since September but did sign a short-term contract to play for Canterbury in New Zealand’s domestic limited-overs competitions in December.
England’s limited-overs captain Eoin Morgan, however, said the 26-year-old had been looking good in the nets since joining the team and would not take too much time to get back into form.
“He looks in great nick, he’s hit the ground running since he’s been involved and he’s been himself, which is great to see,” Morgan told reporters in Hamilton ahead of the opener of the five-match series at Seddon Park on Sunday.
“He might be better for the more games he does play and feel more comfortable coming back... it is his first game in quite a long time.”
Morgan added that Stokes had appeared to have put the legal case to the back of his mind and was just concentrating on the one-day series.
“I think it’s the skill of any professional sportsman... when it comes down to doing your job,” Morgan said. “It’s quite a nice release, in a way, because you get to focus on one thing instead of wider things that are going on.”
Morgan’s team hammered Australia 4-1 in their one-day series across the Tasman, but failed to qualify for the final of the following Twenty20 tri-series that also involved New Zealand.
Morgan said that despite winning the 50-overs series in Australia, his side had struggled with the bat and would need to improve in New Zealand conditions.
”Our batting probably took a backward step in Australia so we’d like to see improvements on that in this series,“ he said. ”Our bowling has come a long way in the last eight months, 11 months probably.
”You can win a lot of games certainly with the bat, but restricting how many you chase down or controlling a game with the ball is so powerful.
“We’ve got to be opening to learning and improving on those weaknesses as we go along. Australia was a tough series and New Zealand are going to be no different.”
With inputs from Reuters