England fret over Ben Stokes's availability after all-rounder falls ill

Captain in race against time to be ready for Headingley Test against New Zealand that starts on Thursday

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England will adopt a wait-and-see approach on the availability of captain Ben Stokes as the all-rounder missed training on Tuesday after feeling unwell as his side started their preparations for the third Test at Headingley.

Stokes was absent while the rest of the squad trained ahead of the Leeds Test, which starts on Thursday, with the hosts having already taken an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three-Test series.

An England and Wales Cricket Board spokesperson told AFP and PA that Stokes had tested negative for Covid-19 on Tuesday but was being kept away from the group as a precautionary measure.

The decision was made as New Zealand have had several positive Covid cases in their squad over the past couple of weeks. Black Caps captain Kane Williamson was forced to miss the second Test after testing positive on the eve of the match in Nottingham.

Apart from Williamson, the tourists also saw Henry Nicholls, Devon Conway, Michael Bracewell and two members of their back-room team return positive results since arriving in England.

The 31-year-old Stokes, in his first Test series as skipper, will be assessed again ahead of Wednesday's training session.

Stokes hit 75 from 70 balls in the second innings of England's second Test victory over New Zealand at Trent Bridge. It was England's second successive win against the Test world champions, clinching their first red-ball series triumph since January 2021.

In case Stokes is ruled out, the Three Lions will have to make a decision on his stand-in as there is no vice-captain in place.

His predecessor, Joe Root, would be the obvious choice in terms of experience but having opened up on the mental toll the job had taken on him prior to stepping away, the management might look at other seniors.

In that case, one of Stuart Broad, James Anderson and Jonny Bairstow could step in. However, at least one of Broad and Anderson could be rested this week, given the lack of preparation time before England's next Test – last year's rearranged series finale against India.

If that happens, Craig Overton and uncapped twin brother Jamie, who has been added to the squad as an extra fast bowling option, will be hoping for a chance.

Should both make the XI together, they would become the first ever twins to line up for England at the same time, with Jill and Jane Powell having done so in different matches for England women.

"It would feel pretty special. It's a moment that we've always wanted," said Jamie Overton. "At times it has looked like it's not going to happen, so the fact it potentially could happen on Thursday is really magical."

Updated: June 21, 2022, 3:05 PM
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