London: England’s hopes of bringing Ben Stokes back into the Test fold received a major boost as New Zealand domestic side Canterbury signed the all-rounder as their overseas player.
The 26-year-old was given a green signal to represent the club by the Canterbury Cricket Association and the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), while his inclusion was sanctioned by the New Zealand Cricket.
Stokes is now all set to play his first competitive game of cricket since his alleged involvement in a Bristol street brawl last month. He will represent Canterbury in 50-over Ford Trophy match against Otago in Rangiora on Sunday.
Welcoming Stokes’ signing in the squad, Canterbury coach Gary Stead said that the all-rounder’s inclusion would bring international experience in the squad while he would also bring depth to their seam attack.
“Ben will bring international experience to what is a relatively youthful changing room. He will also bring depth to our seam attack which has been affected by a string of injuries and provide more balance and firepower to our batting line up,” ESPNcricinfo quoted Stokes, as saying.
Describing Stokes as `one of the world’s best players`, Stead added that Stokes’ experience would be invaluable for young cricketers in the squad as they look to defend their Ford Trophy title and improve performances in the Burger King Super Smash.
“The team have expressed their excitement about the opportunity to learn from and play with Ben,” Stead said.
Earlier, Stokes took social media by a storm when a picture emerged showing Stokes leaving London’s Heathrow airport, with speculations mounting he was set to join his England teammates in Australia.
However, the ECB had dismissed the rumours, saying that Stokes was heading to New Zealand on a private trip to see family in the land of his birthplace. He, however, was also granted a No-Objection Certificate (NoC) by the ECB on November 24 to allow him to play professional cricket in New Zealand.
In October, Stokes was withdrawn from the England’s Ashes squad in the wake of pending investigation into the incident that had led to his arrest after a nightclub brawl in Bristol.
He now remains the subject of a British police investigation, with England’s Director of Cricket Andrew Strauss reiterating that the ECB was still waiting for that process to be finalised in order to decide Stokes’ future.
Though the ECB barred Stokes and his team-mate Alex Hales, who was with the all-rounder during the Bristol incident, from playing in the international matches, the suspension does not apply to domestic cricket, which means that Stokes could turn out for Canterbury.