Ben Stokes Returns to Durham Championship: A Boost for England’s Test Summer 2024 Triumph

Ben Stokes, the England Test captain, is set to make a significant return to the County Championship with Durham, marking his first appearance since May 2022.

The England skipper will play against Lancashire in Blackpool as part of his preparations for the upcoming Test season.

Ben Stokes Returns to Durham Championship: A Boost for England’s Test Summer 2024 Triumph

As he builds up his comeback as an all-arounder, Ben Stokes will play for Durham in the County Championship for the first time since May 2022 this week against Lancashire.

The last competitive match played by the England Test captain took place at the beginning of March during the tour of India. After withdrawing from the IPL, Stokes then withdrew from the T20 World Cup the following month in order to guarantee that he can participate fully in the summer Test matches, both at bat and with the ball, after having surgery in November to remove an issue with his left knee that was preventing him from doing so.

Stokes will start his warm-up at Blackpool on Friday, over two months before the first Test against West Indies, which gets underway at Lord’s on July 10. Given that Durham is currently in fifth place in Division One after one victory and three draws, head coach Ryan Campbell was naturally encouraged by Stokes’ impact on both his team and the competition.

“We’re looking to kickstart our season and we’re looking forward to welcoming England captain Ben Stokes back into our team for the first time – it will be absolutely awesome,” Campbell stated on BBC Radio Newcastle.

“If you have a few days over the weekend, I recommend going to Blackpool to see Durham’s legendary Ben Stokes make his comeback.

“Players are always eager to compete against the top players in the league. It’s incredible to have one of those players on our team to mentor and guide us via his experiences.”Just by his presence alone, the room seems to be buzzing with enthusiasm.”

While England lost 4-1 in India, Stokes, 32, participated in all five games; nevertheless, he did not bowl until the last Test. After bowling just five overs, he dismissed Rohit Sharma with his first delivery.

Initially ruling himself out of bowling during the tour, he chose to turn his arm over in Dharamsala due to the rapidity of his rehabilitation behind the scenes. After that, he departed the tour determined to improve his bowling, in part because England found it difficult to field a balanced squad without a seam-bowling all-round player.

Despite taking some time off, Stokes has improved his bowling and has been gradually raising the intensity of his practices. This summer, there will be six Test matches, three of which will be against Sri Lanka following the West Indies series, and travels to Pakistan and New Zealand before the year is over. Men’s managing director Rob Key expressed his encouragement over Stokes’ development in an interview with the BBC’s Test Match Special podcast on Monday.

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“Ben in particular is feeling, for the first time in quite some time, that he is bowling pain free, and is able to bowl almost, straight away, into his top end speed,” Key stated. “And he’s not doing it constantly while dealing with pain barriers. The fact that the knee surgery went well, in my opinion, has freed him up to focus on this aspect of his game since he can now do both, which is always a huge plus for an all-around player.

It’s one thing to struggle at bat, but if you can still make an impact with the ball, that’s another matter entirely. It gets harder for all-round players if you take away one of those.”

Stokes may play four red-ball matches for Durham between now and the opening West Indies Test. The trip to Blackpool is one of those fixtures. His availability for Durham’s Vitality Blast campaign, which kicks off on May 30, is still up in the air. Before the Test summer starts, Stokes and the England management will make sure he has the required number of overs under his belt, whether it be with the red or white ball.

“Even Ben Stokes, as indestructible as we always think he is, he needs to build up slowly and then hopefully peak at just the right time to go on and not have to worry,” Key stated.

“Because bowling demands a certain level of strength and robustness, and it’s not only about your back, knee, and the knee you had surgery on. He merely needs to retrain his body to withstand the impact of bowling, as I don’t believe there is any other activity that can compare.”

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