IPL 2023 – Bowling a bit of a challenge for Ben Stokes ahead of the Ashes

IPL 2023 - Bowling a bit of a challenge for Ben Stokes ahead of the Ashes

Just over a month before the start of the Ashes, bowling remains “a bit of a challenge” for England’s captain Ben Stokes, who continues to miss out on selection for Chennai Super Kings at the IPL.

England play their first Test against Australia at Edgbaston on June 16 and Stokes has signalled his intention to “fulfil my role as fourth seamer” during that series after a long-running knee issue which has limited his bowling workloads in the recent past.

Stokes, an INR 16.25 crore (£1.6 million approx.) signing at December’s auction, played the first two games of CSK’s season, making 7 and 8 and conceding 18 runs in his only over with the ball.

Stokes has been available for selection again in the last week but has been unable to find a place in the starting XI, with CSK opting to use Devon Conway, Moeen Ali, Matheesha Pathirana and Maheesh Theekshana as their four overseas players instead.

And after CSK’s home defeat to Kolkata Knight Riders on Sunday night, Fleming revealed that Stokes is being seen as “batting cover” and that the franchise are unlikely to “chop and change” ahead of their final group game against Delhi Capitals on Saturday.

“Ben’s ability to bowl overs at the moment is still a bit of a challenge, but he’s there as that batting cover,” Fleming said. “But with Moeen bowling well in good conditions – we go to Delhi [next] which has been turning – we think the balance of the side has been right.

“And look, we’re second on the table, so it’s not our style to chop and change just because we’ve had a loss where things didn’t go our way. We won’t do that. We might tinker with it but we’re very focused on getting the right team for Delhi.”

Stokes has previously indicated that he may leave the IPL early in order to “give myself enough time to get back and play” in England’s next Test against Ireland on June 1, a fixture which is being viewed primarily as preparation for the Ashes.

But it appears increasingly unlikely that he will play any red-ball cricket in the build-up to that game: Durham’s only remaining County Championship fixture before that Test starts on Thursday and he is expected to remain in India ahead of CSK’s final group game.

The IPL’s play-offs run from May 23 to 28, and if CSK were to reach the final, Stokes would be able to arrive back home in the UK on May 29, three days before the start of the Ireland Test at Lord’s. The ECB are expected to leave Stokes’ return date in his own hands.

England’s selectors are due to meet in the next few days to select a squad, with concerns lingering over the fitness of James Anderson.

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