‘Hugely exciting’ Stokes in nets session in boost to hopes of Ashes return

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‘Hugely exciting’ Stokes in nets session in boost to hopes of Ashes return

England allrounder Ben Stokes has been captured back in the nets for the first time since taking an indefinite break from cricket to focus on his fitness and wellbeing.

Stokes had earlier in the week indicated he was making progress in recovering from his finger injury after posting a picture on social media showing him holding a cricket bat.

The 30-year-old had two screws and scar tissue removed from his left index finger last week after breaking it playing in the Indian Premier League in April.

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Now Stokes has only fuelled more speculation he could feature in the Ashes squad after initially being considered unavailable when the 17-man team was named last week.

In three videos uploaded on Instagram, Stokes was captured in a net session with England physiotherapist Craig De Weymarn.

“Great to be back hitting balls,” Stokes said.

England and Wales Cricket Board’s performance director Mo Bobat was positive when speaking about Stokes’ recovery but reiterated the need to leave any future decisions to the player.

“It’s hugely positive and hugely exciting,” he said.

“Certainly it looks like the extra medical stuff that has happened and the removal of scar tissue and everything else he had done has freed up his finger and it’s given him that feeling confidence again back into his fingers.

“Ultimately given what he’s experienced and where he’s been, it’s important that he and we move at the right pace for him. There’s certainly no pressure or expectation from us.

“It’s a case of us supporting Ben physically and however else we need to support but support him so that he can continue to progress at the rate that he would like to and he feels comfortable.”

Bobat was speaking as England named its 14-player squad for the England Lions tour of Australia, who will play two warm-up games against the full side.

Liam Livingstone was one big name to miss out, with England opting to overlook him because of the red-ball focus of the tour.

“From a red-ball perspective, put simply, it felt like there were other players ahead of him right now,” Bobat said.

England Lions squad: Tom Abell (Somerset), Josh Bohannon (Lancashire), James Bracey (Gloucestershire), Brydon Carse (Durham), Mason Crane (Hampshire), Matthew Fisher (Yorkshire), Ben Foakes (Surrey), Alex Lees (Durham), Saqib Mahmood (Lancashire), Liam Norwell (Warwickshire), Matt Parkinson (Lancashire), Dom Sibley (Warwickshire), Jamie Smith (Surrey), Rob Yates (Warwickshire)

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Stokes took an indefinite break from cricket in July to prioritise his mental health but retained his England central contract on Friday.

But his withdrawal from cricket and the injury meant he was omitted from England’s Ashes squad.

Stokes has not played for England since July, when he cut short his injury rehabilitation to captain the one-day side against Pakistan at short notice following a coronavirus outbreak.

Stokes is not appearing in the T20 World Cup, which starts in Oman and the UAE on October 17, and is unlikely to return for the Ashes.

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