Dawid Malan is relishing the chance to line up alongside Ben Stokes again after the all-rounder was cleared to join the England squad following his appearance at Bristol magistrates court on Tuesday.
Though his first hearing at crown court is on 12 March, in the middle of England’s tour of New Zealand, Stokes does not have to attend court. The England and Wales Cricket Board has confirmed he will meet the Twenty20 side in Wellington on Friday.
Stokes will join a group of players who have lost all three of their Trans‑Tasman tri-series matches. They require a favour from Australia on Friday against New Zealand before aiming to defeat the Black Caps on Sunday in Hamilton to stand any hope of making the T20 final on 21 February. The head coach, Trevor Bayliss, confirmed Stokes, whose last competitive match was on 22 December, will not play a part in the T20s and is unlikely to be ready for the first ODI against New Zealand a week on Sunday. The five‑match ODI series is followed by two Tests, by which time Stokes should be up to speed.
Malan, one of the few to emerge with any credit from the tri-series with 119 runs from three innings, featuring two half-centuries, said he and the rest of the squad are desperate for Stokes to return to action.
“Stokesy is probably one of the best all-rounders in the world, if not the best all-rounder in the world,” he said. “You know that you have got a match-winner there either with the ball or the bat. To have him around the team is fantastic, especially in the shorter format. He is pretty much a freak when he gets going. He believes that in any situation he can win the game. To have someone like him is invaluable.”
For the players the clarity on Stokes’s situation is welcome. The passing of time and a 4-1 ODI success against Australia saw it slip momentarily off the agenda, even in the dressing room. “I think everyone forgot that it was his court case [on Tuesday],” Malan said. “There was one point in the [Ashes] Tests when the boys were chatting that he could still make the third Test. Apart from that, there’s been no chat since. That doesn’t mean no one wants him. Everyone wants him here.”
To the players’ credit, Stokes’s absence has not been used to excuse any shortcomings. That, Malan believes, is down to distance and decisions being made back in the UK.
“As with anything, if it’s beyond your control, you don’t speak about it. It’s helped that he was away for the time he was. If he was in and out of the side, it would have not only been bad for him but also tough for the team having to change the balance. Hopefully, this will be a clear run and he’ll be available for England as soon as possible,” he said.