England may fast-track Ben Stokes into the Ashes if he avoids police charges.
Stokes appears set to play for Canterbury Kings in New Zealand’s Ford Trophy this weekend, while his England team-mates are contesting the second Ashes Test with Australia in Adelaide.
There has been no police update since the all-rounder was arrested and released under suspicion of causing actual bodily harm in an incident outside a Bristol nightclub in September.
It appears that the England and Wales Cricket Board has a contingency in place should Avon & Somerset Police clear the 26-year-old.
The governing body would convene a board meeting within 48 hours, after which a Cricket Discipline Commission procedure – announced under ECB auspices last month – could take place.
It is a scenario which opens up the possibility, if nothing more as yet, of Stokes jetting in at some point to aid England’s battle for the Ashes.
Stokes surprised the cricketing world again when he took an unannounced flight on Monday night from Heathrow to his native Christchurch – posting Instagram footage en route – amid initial reports he was simply visiting his extended family.
He remains unavailable for international selection following his part in the late-night fracas but it has been learned he was granted a no-objection certificate four days ago by the ECB to play domestic cricket anywhere he chooses.
There were already indications from the ECB that Stokes will be free to play for the Kings against Otago Volts in the Ford Trophy 50-over competition on Sunday, by the time his prospective New Zealand employers issued a statement.
The Canterbury Cricket Association press release read: “Following the recent speculation surrounding Ben Stokes coming to New Zealand, Canterbury Cricket can now confirm that they have been in initial informal discussions with Ben Stokes’ representatives regarding his potential availability for Ford Trophy and Burger King Super Smash competitions.”
Chief executive Jeremy Curwin added: “The CCA Board and New Zealand Cricket will independently be considering this issue in the near future – but until then, we are unable to provide any more detail on the status of the deliberations.”
Stokes was originally picked in England’s Ashes squad but then left at home.
So far, he has missed three tour matches and a first-Test defeat in Brisbane by ten wickets – during which the consequences of his absence for Joe Root’s tourists were painfully plain to see.
The ECB is still unaware of any impending police decision, as director Andrew Strauss confirmed at a press briefing on Monday.
He said: “We’ve had no information from them.
“We’re waiting for the police to make a charging decision and, until that happens, nothing has changed. We’re in the same situation as we have been for quite a long time now.”
On the subject of whether the CDC has yet held any preliminary discussions, he added: “There are certain procedural things that have taken place, but there is a process that can only kick in once we’ve heard a charging decision from the police.”
In the meantime, geographically at least, Stokes has moved closer to Ashes contention.