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Stokes flies into media storm in New Zealand

Cricket

England’s suspended allrounder Ben Stokes has landed in Christchurch, with New Zealand Cricket expected to give him the green light to play in their domestic competition.

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Stokes touched down in his place of birth today, when the vice-captain was greeted at the airport by both parents and plenty of reporters as speculation builds he will be called across the Tasman to return for England in the third Ashes Test in Perth starting on December 14.

Stokes wouldn’t answer any cricket questions, only saying he was “looking forward to seeing mum and dad” and planned to “work on my golf swing”.

Canterbury Cricket Association’s board is set to meet later today to discuss whether they will sign Stokes, who remains under UK police investigation after a brawl outside a Bristol nightclub, on a short-term deal.

The widespread expectation is they will and that Stokes could be facing Otago in a comeback game on Sunday in Rangiora.

England arranged a No Objection Certificate (NOC) last Friday. New Zealand’s national cricket board is yet to rubber stamp the arrangement but that is likely to happen if coach Mike Hesson’s comments are any guide.

“From a cricket point of view he’s a world class player and would add a lot of talent to the competition,” Hesson told reporters.

“Certainly if players perform well against Ben it shows us they’re performing well against the best.

“If it improves the standard of the competition, which I’m sure it will, then great.”

Hesson was less keen to discuss whether Stokes should be playing at all and how the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has dealt with the sordid saga.

England, without having settled on any form of punishment, are desperate for Stokes to feature in the Ashes and have given permission for the star to play cricket for the first time since he left a man hospitalised with facial injuries.

Upon standing Stokes down, the ECB noted in a statement he would “not be considered for selection for England international matches” but made no reference to other fixtures.

If the 26-year-old is cleared over his alleged involvement in a drunken fracas that occurred in September, the ECB would convene an emergency board meeting within 48 hours.

The ECB could then potentially agree on a back-dated ban that would allow Stokes to contest the WACA Test that begins on December 14. England start a two-day tour game in Perth on December 9.

The ECB claimed yesterday that Stokes booked his trip privately and would be spending time with family but it quickly became apparent he was keen to play – and that a NOC was arranged the previous week.

Canterbury coach Gary Stead said the association would be “stupid not to consider” having Stokes as a guest player.

-AAP 

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