England look to Stokes for spark

Ben Stokes is back in the England fold

Ben Stokes is back in the England fold

First published in National Sport News © by

England welcomed back "vivacious character" Ben Stokes in an otherwise unchanged squad for the first Investec Test against India.

Without long to dwell on the dramatic last-gasp defeat against Sri Lanka at Headingley, selectors opted to take an identical 12-man squad to Trent Bridge for the flagship series against India augmented by Durham all-rounder Stokes.

The 23-year-old was the star performer during England's otherwise dismal Ashes winter, taking 15 wickets and hitting a maiden Test century in the 5-0 Australia whitewash, but saw his progress stall after a self-inflicted injury.

Stokes punched a locker on the limited-overs tour of West Indies, forcing him to miss the World Twenty20 and, due to uncertainty over his match-fitness, the start of England's international summer.

But it was always a question of when, rather than if, he would re-enter the fray, and 10 wickets in his last LV= County Championship match for Durham made a compelling case that the time was right.

National selector James Whitaker told Sky Sports News: " Ben's strength and vigour will add to the whole environment and it will be fantastic for him.

"He is a vivacious character, he's got some 'X factor', he's fantastic on flat wickets and gets some movement off the pitch.

"We're excited about Ben."

Explaining Stokes' previous non-selection,Whitaker explained: " We didn't have any regrets about not including him for the Sri Lanka series. We made that judgement call and felt at that stage he needed a few more overs under his belt and get a little bit more consistent with the ball and we feel he has done that."

Whitaker's words suggest Stokes can expect to be on duty for a first home Test in Nottingham on July 9, but the composition of the XI could be a tricky call.

Moeen Ali is the man in possession of Stokes' preferred role at number six, but his gutsy maiden century at Headingley - coupled with the fact that he is currently the side's main spinner - means he appears bullet-proof.

In that case, Chris Jordan would become vulnerable.

He has had a lively start to his England career, impressing with his all-round ability and enthusiasm.

But his return in the second match against Sri Lanka - no wickets, scores of 17 and 21 and a dropped catch at slip - may not be enough to hold off Stokes.

With senior seamers James Anderson and Stuart Broad also present alongside the revitalised Liam Plunkett and seemingly perennial 12th man Chris Woakes, England appear over-stocked with fast men.

Two, probably Jordan and Woakes, will not be required at Trent Bridge but Whitaker believes that the physical demands of five Tests in 42 days could open the door during the course of the series.

And if rotation is required to keep the likes of 31-year-old Anderson fit and firing, the selectors want the replacements to be on board from the outset.

"We have got five Test matches in a very short space of time and one of the reasons to include six seamers is that we believe at some stage they're all going to play," he added.

"At the start of the series while they're talking about the Indians and strategy and tactics it makes sense to include that group so they get the first hand knowledge straight away.

"We would like to think that the four who get picked on the day play brilliant well and stay fantastically fit and the world's perfect but realistically we need a group.

"We know (Anderson and Broad) are 100 per cent fit, they have been passed off fit by the medical team to be included, but they did just play back-to-back Tests and there will be fatigue that builds up.

"That's up to the medical team to manage individually each player and history indicates they have managed them very well."

Cook, meanwhile, continues to enjoy the selection panel's full confidence.

His captaincy is under the microscope like never before, with a lack of runs at the top of the order only serving to intensify the debate.

But Whitaker downplayed the issue.

"It probably comes with the territory if you're captain of an international sporting team but he's tough enough, hard enough and determined enough to turn it around and do his best for everybody concerned," he said.

"At the moment Alastair Cook is our England captain, we have great faith in him, we are 100 per cent behind him and we believe given his record as a person of integrity and the fact that he has scored so many runs that he will turn it around and help us be successful."

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