Cricket |Ben Stokes may not return as Test vice-captain, Joe Root admits



Ben Stokes may have reassumed his mantle as match-winning all-rounder in his second game back but not all of the roles bestowed on him will be handed back so quickly. Speaking on Thursday, the Test captain, Joe Root, admitted Stokes is not guaranteed to return as his vice-captain for the Tests against New Zealand.

A suspension placed on Stokes by the England and Wales Cricket Board after his arrest on 25 September in Bristol meant he played no part in the Ashes, with Jimmy Anderson acting as Root’s deputy for the five-Test series against Australia. After Stokes returned to international duty for the one-day series with New Zealand, a man-of-the-match performance from him in the second ODI – 63 not out to go with two for 42 – levelled the series at 1-1.

Root said there is no certainty the all-rounder will be his right-hand man for the two-Test series starting on 22 March. “That’s a decision we’ve not agreed yet. I think when we get together as a group me and Trevor [Bayliss] will discuss a few things. But that’s not been discussed [yet],” he said.

A factor for captain and coach to consider is Stokes’s mindset. He may want to focus on his game after months out, especially in a format so demanding on stamina. There is also the matter of his Bristol crown court trial, with the first hearing set for 12 March. Stokes’s presence is not required and he will be in Hamilton preparing for the first Test in Auckland.

Root, though, is desperate to turn things around after a humbling 4-0 defeat in his first away Ashes tour as captain, and he does not believe off-field events will distract Stokes. He, along with everyone else, has been impressed with Stokes’s work ethic since he returned to the setup. The manner of the 26-year-old’s performance in the second ODI, helping restrict New Zealand to 223 and then taking England home with an 11th ODI half-century, spoke volumes for his preparation in the UK before coming out to New Zealand.

“All I can say is what I’ve seen of him coming back into the environment and he’s worked his nuts off,” said Root. “He’s gone about things exactly how you’d expect a really good professional to do, and that sort of standard in training is why you get the performances on the field.

“He worked really hard back home in Durham to make sure when he did get his opportunity to come back and play, he was ready. He loves playing for England. He leaves nothing out there on the field, he’s dedicated to this sport and it’s nice to be able to look back on the last game and see him have such an influence on the result.”

The third ODI takes place at the Westpac Stadium, where England have not won any of their four 50-over matches. The last two defeats came in the 2015 World Cup – rolled for 123 against New Zealand, who knocked off the runs in 12.2 overs, before Sri Lanka successfully overcame England’s 309, losing only one wicket in the process.

Mark Wood is back in contention for Saturday’s match. After withdrawing himself from the opener in Hamilton with a sore ankle, he trained on Tuesday but played no part in Wednesday’s match in Mount Maunganui to ensure a full recovery. One of David Willey or Tom Curran would sit out.

Having relinquished a 1-0 lead there is good news for the Black Caps, who left the second ODI sweating on the fitness of their captain, Kane Williamson, and first-ODI centurion, Ross Taylor.

Williamson missed the six-wicket defeat with a hamstring injury while Taylor was unable to field after pulling his quadriceps during his innings of 10. A scan revealed no serious damage for Taylor and both players will have Friday’s training session to prove they are good to go for Saturday.