Ben Stokes has signed for Canterbury to maintain match fitness
‘Ashes is an obvious connection, however that’s not been a consideration for us or Ben’
New Zealand-born England cricket player Ben Stokes arrives in Christchurch. Photograph: PA
Suspended England all-rounder Ben Stokes has signed as an overseas player for Canterbury in New Zealand as he seeks to maintain match fitness while his assault case is investigated.
Stokes, who is still unavailable for England selection following his arrest over an incident outside a Bristol nightclub in September, arrived in Christchurch on Wednesday to a hostile Australian media reception.
At the airport, Stokes said he was in the country of his birth to spend some time with his parents and on the golf course, but his signing with Canterbury will ensure he is be primed for action, should he be cleared to join England’s Ashes party.
The deal was agreed with the English Cricket Board, endorsed by the New Zealand Cricket Players Association and sanctioned by New Zealand Cricket, Canterbury Cricket said.
“While Ben awaits the outcome of an investigation underway in the UK, he wants to maintain his fitness and his connection with the game,” said Gary Stead, CCA’s director of cricket. “He is a brilliant all-round player and we are really pleased to have secured one of the world’s best players in our domestic competition.”
Stokes could make his debut for the as early as December 3rd, when Canterbury play Otago in the Ford Trophy in Rangiora. “After the approach from Ben’s representatives everything has happened very quickly for us to the extent that we are now delighted to welcome Ben into the team,” Stead said.
England meet Australia in the second Ashes Test – a day-night, pink ball match, starting on Saturday in Adelaide – looking to get their tour back on track after the hosts inflicted a comprehensive, 10-wicket defeat in Brisbane.
Chris Woakes said Stokes would be welcomed back into England’s Ashes setup “with open arms” if cleared, although any potential return to the team has since been hampered by police handing evidence to the Crown Prosecution Service for charging advice.
But the CCA insisted Stokes’ arrival in Canterbury was not related to a possible Ashes recall. “Whilst we have spoken to the ECB, there are a lot of sensitive facts around Ben’s matter that we have not been privy to,” Canterbury Cricket CEO, Jez Curwin, said.
“However having spent time with Ben we are very comfortable that he wants to come to play for Canterbury for all the right reasons and get back on the park. The Ashes series is an obvious connection, however that has not been a consideration for us or Ben at this time, he is just keen to be able to work again.”