Ben Stokes’s hopes of making his return to Test cricket in the first Test against New Zealand at Auckland next week have received a set-back after he was ruled out of England’s opening two-day warm-up match at Hamilton on Wednesday with a back injury.
Although the injury is not thought to be serious, the fixture against a New Zealand XI would have been his first outing in long-form cricket since the West Indies Test series in September, after he was omitted from England’s Ashes plans in the wake of his arrest in Bristol later that month.
It would also have been Stokes’s one opportunity for match practice with a pink ball, ahead of the day-night first Test which starts on March 22. If he recovers in time, he may yet be able to feature in the second of England’s two-day games, this time with a red ball, which follows on immediately on Friday.
Stokes had been a noticeably low-key presence at England training in the past couple of days, as had Chris Woakes, who will also miss the pink-ball fixture, along with Craig Overton, another of England’s seam-bowling options.