England still to decide if Stokes plays in third Test

England still to decide if Stokes plays in third Test

England have yet to decide if Ben Stokes will make his return to international action in the third Test against India at Trent Bridge later this week.

The all-rounder was acquitted of affray at a trial in Bristol on Tuesday, having missed England’s innings and 159-run win in the second Test at Lord’s last week because it clashed with his court case.

England coach Trevor Bayliss welcomed Stokes’s return to the squad on Thursday.

But neither England nor India¬†are obliged to confirm their XIs until the toss which, weather permitting, should take place before Saturday’s first day in Nottingham.

Given they are 2-0 up in a five-match series, England face a more than usually tricky decision over whether to change a winning side.

“It’s good to have him back around the squad. I’m happy for Ben and glad it’s all over,” Bayliss told reporters at Trent Bridge on Thursday.

“I haven’t actually spoken to him since…but I’ve got the next two days to assess where he’s at.”

The Australian added: “It’s a good position to be in. Whether he plays or not we’ve got some guys in good form in the team.

“It’s a difficult decision whoever misses out, whether it’s Ben or anyone else. It’s a position we’ve been trying to get into for a while.

“We have some good young players coming in.”

Explaining how Stokes was added to the squad after the not guily verdict, Bayliss said: “It was a collective decision. Myself, the management, the captain, Andy Flower, the board — everyone had a bit of a say and basically thought for his (Stokes’s) own wellbeing it was good to get him back around the cricket.

“There’s nothing automatic about selections, we’ll see how he is mentally as well as physically. He’s not played for a couple of weeks. It’s a difficult decision to make.”

Although cleared by the court both Stokes and England team-mate Alex Hales remain subject to a Cricket Discipline Commission investigation.

Stokes was not selected for any of the 2017/18 Ashes in Australia, which England lost 4-0 in his absence while attracting some unwanted off-field headlines regarding player behaviour.

“Since the (Stokes) incident we’ve done a lot of work with team culture with the two captains (Test skipper Joe Root and white-ball counterpart Eoin Morgan) — and that’s ongoing,” said Bayliss.

“Changes with curfews and that type of thing.

“In the past all the other teams I’ve been involved with and this one, when I arrived, would treat teams like adults and they (players) will respond like it,” the former Sri Lanka coach added.

“For a team on the road 11 months out of 12, we had an incident we’d rather have not happened to a degree and we’ve thought we needed to do something different.

“There were a couple of small indiscretions in Australia after that incident and I think the players have finally woken up. They’ve learnt their lesson and the way they go about their profession has been top class.”