Ben Stokes faces a spell on the sidelines ahead of England’s international summer after being ruled out of the Indian Premier League with a broken finger.
The all-rounder suffered the injury to his left hand while diving to take a catch in the deep off Chris Gayle as his Rajasthan Royals side lost their opening match of the new IPL season to Kings XI Punjab in Mumbai on Monday night.
But while Stokes played on, opening the batting in the second innings only to be dismissed for a three-ball duck, the franchise confirmed on Tuesday that their £1.3m star player did suffer a break and will now miss the remainder of the campaign.
England’s medical staff have been in touch with the franchise, with a spokesperson for the national team stating that the severity of the injury and his recovery period will be fully established once Stokes has undergone a second X-ray in India this week.
The initial results have already been assessed by Leeds-based hand consultant Doug Campbell, who previously oversaw Stokes’ recovery from the broken wrist inflicted when striking a locker in Barbados seven years ago. Campbell also operated on Jofra Archer last month when removing a shard of glass from his right middle finger.
The first Test against New Zealand at Lord’s starts on 2 June and while the IPL may previously have created a clash here - England players who feature in the knockout stages in late May will be allowed to sit this out - it could become a possible target for ‘ Stokes’ return. With seven Tests this summer, and both the T20 World Cup and the Ashes later this year, the enforced rest period may even have long-term benefits.
Archer’s comeback date is similarly up in the air despite being given the all-clear to resume light training this week. The middle finger on his bowling hand is healed but more pertinent is the longstanding elbow injury that has delayed his arrival at Rajasthan and could yet lead to England withdrawing the fast bowler entirely.
How Archer’s elbow reacts to bowling at full intensity from next week onwards, following a second cortisone injection in the joint this year, will be central to the decision made by England’s medical team. Caution is likely to be the watchword, however, with surgery on the longstanding problem still believed to be a possibility.
Other members of England’s pace stable are back in action this week, at least, with Stuart Broad and Olly Stone down to play for Nottinghamshire and Warwickshire when their respective sides meet at Trent Bridge from Thursday.
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Broad was originally due to miss the opening two rounds of the County Championship but after sending down just 52 overs in Sri Lanka and India and finding nets repetitive since returning from tour, he has asked to bring forward his first outing this season.
Jimmy Anderson’s return with Lancashire is slated for the fixture at Kent next week at the earliest, while Mark Wood is being held back until Durham’s fixtures in May. Competition for spots in the Test side should be fierce, with Chris Woakes a banker on home soil and England keen to look at Ollie Robinson, the uncapped Sussex seamer.