Former England wicketkeeper-batsman Matt Prior fuelled speculation of suspended Ben Stokes reinforcing the tourists after their 10-wicket loss to Australia in the Ashes opener, when the all-rounder was spotted at Heathrow airport en-route New Zealand. The all-rounder was sidelined from the squad after he was caught on videotape in a fist-fight in Bristol.
Delighted at Stokes' possible return, Prior took to Twitter saying: "If Stokes is heading to NZ then he must be cleared I'd assume?"
"Get the long flight out the way. Best place to get acclimatised and ready whilst not being in Oz...fly in for the Test when decisions have been made (which must be close)..." he wrote in another tweet.
England would be hoping for Stokes' early return, especially after their massive 10-wicket loss to the hosts at the Gabba in Adelaide on Monday.
— Matt Prior (@MattPrior13) November 27, 2017
The 26-year-old Stokes was initially named in the Ashes squad for the tour of Australia but was stood down following his arrest on suspicion of causing actual bodily harm during a brawl in Bristol during England's one-day series against the West Indies two months ago.
While the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) played down the issue, saying Stokes was on a personal trip to New Zealand, a statement from Canterbury Cricket revealed that they have been in initial informal discussions with Stokes' representatives regarding his potential availability for Ford Trophy and Burger King Super Smash cricket.
However, the ECB's decision to grant Stokes a No Objection Certificate (NOC) last Friday, which cleared him to play in New Zealand, suggests a softening on their stance.
The fact that he has been cleared to travel, added to the proximity of New Zealand to Australia, means that ECB wants Stokes to be match ready and immediately join the squad once the probe by the Avon and Somerset Police is over.
(With IANS Inputs)