Stokes takes two wickets on England return in Ashes warm-up clash


fter the frustration of just 29 overs across five days, England finally took the field for some meaningful Ashes preparation with Ben Stokes picking up two wickets in his first appearance since July.

The Ashes are just six days away, so England desperately needed the clouds to part in Brisbane, which they duly did, allowing a full day’s play. It was originally hoped that this would be a first-class fixture, but England are having to make do after four successive washed out days of practice cricket.

An England XI (of 13 players) took on a Lions XI (also 13), made up of a mixture of players in the main and shadow squads. England chose to bowl, in order to get miles in the legs of the likes of James Anderson and Stuart Broad.

As the Lions XI reached 226 for four (with three more batters retiring) from 78 overs on a flat pitch, both senior men went wicketless, as did Ollie Robinson and Jack Leach, both of whom are likely to be in the attack at the Gabba on Wednesday.

But Stokes, who has played no cricket since July 26 after a break for a finger injury and to manage his mental wellbeing, picked up two wickets, bowling with aggression. He dismissed Zak Crawley, who top-scored with 45, caught at leg-gully, and Chris Woakes, caught at first slip, in his 10 overs.

“It’s great having Ben back,” said Crawley. “He has been bowling nicely and batting well in the nets. He makes a massive impact on this group just being here and there is no doubt he will play a big part in the Ashes.

“It’s hard to know as I have not faced Ben too much but it felt pretty decent to me. He got me out so I hope he was bowling at full pelt.”

England are being careful with Stokes. He did not field in the slips, as he usually does, to manage his finger injury, and he spent time off the field in the middle session receiving a massage. He returned to the field to bowl again.

Stokes, England’s talisman, revealed on Thursday that he made the decision to end his hiatus and tour Australia in “the spur of the moment”.

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