Stokes replays the waiting game

Ben Stokes is poised again to make an England return – this time in the one-day series against New Zealand — after being included in a 15-man squad “subject to any court obligations”.

Stokes has spent more than four months out of England’s side since he was arrested following a dead-of-night incident outside a Bristol nightclub. He is due to appear at magistrates’ court in the city on February 13 to answer a charge of affray.

England remain hopeful that he will be clear to play the five-match ODI series which starts on February 25, but cannot make a firm decision until the outcome of Stokes’ courth appearance.

England’s decision to name Stokes provisionally follows a familiar pattern dating back to the Ashes, when he was selected but ultimately deemed unavailable for both the Test and ODI series.

Instead, he managed some cricket across the Tasman Sea for Canterbury and may now find himself returning to New Zealand in more fulfilling circumstances.

England have made two changes to the squad that beat Australia 4-1. Nottinghamshire seamer Jake Ball, who played the final match of the series, has been omitted, as has Dawid Malan who was added as Stokes’ replacement.

With Stokes’ inclusion not yet certain, Malan, who has just been appointed as Middlesex club captain, might decide not to unpack his bags just yet.

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