In a move that is certain to make heads turn, England have included talismanic all-rounder Ben Stokes in their 16-man squad for the Test tour of New Zealand in March this year. Impressive Lancashire batsman Liam Livingstone also got a maiden call-up to the Three Lions’ squad.
After an infamous nightclub brawl in September last year, Stokes was forced to sit out the Ashes series Down Under, where England were thrashed 4-0 by the hosts. In the chastening campaign, Australia record four comprehensive wins – including two innings victories and a 10-wicket triumph.
Ben Stokes breathes a sigh of relief
While his alleged role in a fight outside a nightclub in Bristol is still under police investigation, the news of him being selected for the New Zealand tour is surely a sigh of relief for the under-fire Stokes. The 26-year-old all-rounder also recently went to New Zealand for a month to play for Canterbury, his province of birth.
The England selectors though, made it amply clear that Stokes was in the frame. The national selector James Whitaker said,
“Though his involvement remains subject to any relevant legal or disciplinary developments in relation to the incident in Bristol in September. Should the ECB Board receive formal confirmation that Stokes has either been charged or that he will face no charges, they would convene within 48 hours to make a decision on his availability for the team at that stage.”
Whitaker also went on to explain that the selectors had been watching Lancashire’s Livingstone for some time now and that he was rewarded for his domestic form in the English county circuit. He said,
“Liam has been a player that we have been impressed with for quite some time, having performed well in the county system with Lancashire and over the past couple of years with the England Lions.”
While Ashes under-performers Moeen Ali, James Vince and Mark Stoneman were all retained, seamer Mark Wood also returned to side after a long injury lay-off. Gary Ballance, Tom Curran and Jake Ball, who were all part of the disastrous Ashes campaign, have been left out of the squad and will subsequently go back to playing county cricket for the time being.
England squad: Joe Root (Captain), Moeen Ali, James Anderson, Jonny Bairstow, Stuart Broad, Alastair Cook, Mason Crane, Ben Foakes, Liam Livingstone, Dawid Malan, Craig Overton, Ben Stokes, Mark Stoneman, James Vince, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood