May 24, 2024

England Test captain Ben Stokes is set to make his first appearance for Durham in two years

After making himself unavailable for next month’s T20 World Cup, Stokes is focusing on the red-ball game and returning to all-round duties after spending most of last year as a specialist batsman.

The 32-year-old took a long break following the conclusion of England’s Test tour of India, missing the first five matches of his county’s top-flight return, but is now ready for his return.

Stokes (left) and Nathan Lyon (centre) go head-to-head in Blackpool (Mike Egerton/PA)

He will travel to Blackpool to face Lancashire, who are expected to call up Australian team player Lyon after he was rested this week. He and Stokes have faced each other in 30 Tests over more than a decade, including a memorable tussle during the England captain’s Headingley miracle in 2019.

Stokes could also face fellow international Tom Hartley, if the Red Rose finds a place for both slow bowlers and returned-to-fit seamer Saqib Mahmood. Durham have Matthew Potts and Braydon Carse, two men who will be hoping to compete for James Anderson’s Test jersey when he retires later this summer, in their ranks.

During Stokes’ appearance, Durham coach Ryan Campbell told BBC Radio Newcastle: “I suggest if you have a few days over the weekend, you go to Blackpool to watch the great Ben Stokes return to Durham.

“Suddenly, there was an atmosphere of excitement in the place as soon as he walked into the room. You want to play against the best players in the world. But to have one of those in our team, to show us the way, his experiences, it’s unbelievable.

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Speaking after the draw against Hampshire, Campbell added: “For us, we always talk about playing against the best players in the competition, but having a player in your team makes life completely different.

“He’ll lift the blocks too. Some of them haven’t played with Ben for years, if at all, and I’m sure the crowds at Blackpool will swell. English cricket needs a fit Ben Stokes.”

Stokes’ last competitive appearance saw him bowl India captain Rohit Sharma with his first competitive delivery since July and he is expected to take up some duties for Durham as he builds his bowling loads ahead of the Test summer.

Meanwhile, Jofra Archer is likely to feature for the Sussex 2nd XI in Beckenham later this week. The fast bowler has been sidelined for almost a year due to his latest stress fracture, but is set to join England’s T20 squad for next week’s series against Pakistan.

It is hoped that he will join the team on Thursday or Friday for a period of rest while he continues the long rehabilitation process ahead of the T20 World Cup next month.