England return for Ben Stokes could happen in New Zealand

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London: Ben Stokes’s long-awaited return to England duty could take place in his native New Zealand after the all-rounder was included yesterday in a 15-man squad for a one-day international series against the Black Caps “subject to any court obligations”.

Stokes has not played international cricket since being suspended by the England and Wales Board (ECB) following his involvement in an incident outside a Bristol nightclub in September that reportedly left a man with a fractured eye socket. As a result, the Durham all-rounder missed the whole of England’s 4-0 Ashes series defeat in Australia.

But last month saw Stokes included in England’s squad for the upcoming triangular Twenty20 series that is being co- hosted by Australia and New Zealand. However, English legal authorities then announced that Stokes was due to appear in a magistrates court on February 13 after he was charged with affray. That date clashes with what England had hoped would be Stokes’s planned international comeback in a Twenty20 with New Zealand.

England remain optimistic that Stokes will be available for all of a five-match ODI series that starts on February 25 but the complexities of the legal system mean they cannot be certain.

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