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BEN STOKES handed England a major boost today as he was added to their Ashes squad after declaring his readiness to return to competitive cricket following an extended break.
England’s all-rounder missed the summer’s marquee Test series against India and is absent from the ongoing T20 World Cup, prioritising his mental health and to allow a fractured left index finger to fully recover.
Stokes was England’s leading run-scorer in the 2019 series between the teams, with 441 runs at an average of 55.12, including an unforgettable unbeaten century that helped Root’s side to a highly improbable victory at Headingley.
Talismanic Stokes initially suffered the injury in April at the Indian Premier League but, despite surgery, he was still in lingering discomfort, which was a factor in him abandoning a comeback towards the back end of July.
However, he had a second operation to remove two screws and scar tissue earlier this month and fuelled speculation of being primed to face Australia this winter by filming himself enthusiastically batting and bowling in the nets.
Having been given the all-clear by his consultant and the England and Wales Cricket Board’s medical team, Stokes has given captain Joe Root and head coach Chris Silverwood a welcome fillip after it was announced he will head Down Under alongside the Test specialists and supplementary Lions party on November 4.
“I had a break to prioritise my mental wellbeing and I got my finger sorted,” Stokes said.
“I am looking forward to seeing my mates and being on the field with them. I’m ready for Australia.”
England’s plans for Australia have already taken a knock as Jofra Archer and Olly Stone will definitely miss out through injury, although Silverwood made it clear they were not putting pressure on Stokes about a comeback.
Stokes has been posting videos on Instagram of his training recently and is now poised for action, having last played cricket on July 26 in The Hundred, just a few days after coming back to England duty on short notice to captain a makeshift side to a 3-0 one-day series clean sweep over Pakistan.
Ashley Giles, managing director of England’s men’s cricket, greeted Stokes’s comeback warmly but insisted gradual steps must be taken over the coming weeks to make sure the 30-year-old is as prepared as he can be for an international return.
Giles said: “Following a very successful operation on his finger and several conversations over the last few weeks between Ben and I, our medical staff and his management team, Ben called me to say he was ready to return to cricket and was excited about the prospect of playing a significant role in the Ashes series.
“Time and time again, Ben has demonstrated how important he is to the England team and having him available for the Ashes series is excellent news for all of us and, in particular, Chris, Joe and the rest of the players.
“Having not played for some time, we will move forward cautiously over the next few weeks to ensure he is fully prepared across all facets of his game.
“Ahead of a very busy period of cricket, we continue to remain mindful of the stresses on all our personnel, and our primary focus continues to be the wellbeing of all of our players and support staff.”
England’s first Test against Australia is currently scheduled to start in Brisbane on December 8, with the five-match series concluding in Perth on January 18.
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