Ben Stokes made an enthusiastic return to England training on Saturday, but captain Eoin Morgan insisted his competitive comeback will not be rushed.
Stokes arrived in New Zealand on Friday, three days after pleading not guilty to a charge of affray at Bristol Magistrates’ Court, and was an eager participant at practice on his first morning in the country.
The 26-year-old, whose last involvement with England was almost five months ago, could have taken a recovery day, but donned an orange bib to referee the warm-up football match, played a full part in the team’s stretches and fielding drills, and later took to the nets for a bat.
He did not bowl – hardly surprising given his lengthy journey from Heathrow to Auckland – and Morgan was quick to rule out any prospect of the all-rounder making a surprise appearance in Sunday’s Twenty20 against New Zealand.
“We’re not expecting Ben to play, he only got off a long flight yesterday,” said the skipper.
“He’ll be taking the next couple of days really easy. There’s a big risk of injury in the next few days so he’ll be taking a light load.”
England need to beat the Black Caps to have any chance of making the final in Auckland on February 21 – though they could win and still lose out unless they do so convincingly enough to overturn their current net run-rate deficit.
Stokes would also be unlikely to feature should they make the showpiece, with Morgan suggesting the first one-day international against New Zealand, also in Hamilton on February 25, was the earliest possible date.
The Dubliner went on to reveal the casual welcome Stokes received from his teammates, who enjoyed a sociable evening watching Australia mount a world record run chase against the co-hosts to keep England alive in the triangular series.
“It’s always good to see Ben back. We got together, a group of us in team room, and caught up on Friday,” he said.
“We sat in the team room, chipped golf balls and talked crap, and had the game on in the background.”
Morgan declared himself highly probable to lead the team once again, having missed defeats in Melbourne and Wellington with a groin strain.
Having completed a fitness test on Friday morning, Morgan was back in the thick of things on the eve of the match and should reclaim his place from stand-in James Vince.
“I came through today well, so I’m fit and ready for tomorrow unless something ridiculous happens,” he said.
“I’m feeling good and looking forward to getting back in the side.”
England must also find a replacement for paceman Liam Plunkett, whose tour is over with a recurrence of his hamstring injury.
Tom Curran is the likeliest seam option on hand, with Liam Dawson ready should a second spinner be required.
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