England captain Ben Stokes feeling unwell and forced to miss training ahead of Headingley Test

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Ben Stokes - England captain Ben Stokes feeling unwell and forced to miss training ahead of Headingley Test - PA
Ben Stokes - England captain Ben Stokes feeling unwell and forced to miss training ahead of Headingley Test - PA

England are waiting on the fitness of captain Ben Stokes for the third Test against New Zealand after he missed training on Tuesday due to a chesty cough and feeling unwell.

Stokes returned a negative Covid test in the morning but will continue to be monitored by the medical team, but batting coach Marcus Trescothick was unable to travel to Leeds after contracting the virus over the weekend. Trescothick is the first member of the England set up to test positive this summer.

Stokes will be monitored and tested again if he continues to feel unwell. No other England player is displaying symptoms.

Stokes does not have a nominated vice-captain due to the lack of experience in the team, England preferring to put off the decision in the hope he stays fit. If he misses this Test then the candidates to replace him are James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Joe Root or Jonny Bairstow.

Anderson may well be rested this week with a Test against India at Edgbaston in mind when England hope to level the series delayed from last year. Broad captained the England Twenty20 side and is more likely to play here than Anderson.

It could be too soon to ask Root to step in after standing down as captain in April, especially as he is scoring runs, has returned to No 1 in the world rankings, and happy to be concentrating just on batting. Bairstow captained Welsh Fire in the Hundred last season and previously led Yorkshire once in the Blast. He has never captained a side in first-class cricket and not really been seen as leadership material by England, although recently there have been attempts to include him more in the management group and he is on a high after his epic Trent Bridge hundred.

Three New Zealand players only recently left five days of isolation after contracting Covid in Nottingham. Captain Kane Williamson withdrew on the eve of the match when he tested positive. Since then Devon Conway and Michael Bracewell tested positive. All are available for selection this week.

Covid restrictions have been relaxed this summer, with the players returning to normal life and able to visit restaurants and be joined daily by friends in the hotel. Stokes visited his old cricket club, Cockermouth, at the weekend for example, but with a Covid spike nationwide the players are more exposed than over the past two summers when restrictions were in place.

When asked about Williamson at the toss in Nottingham last week Stokes quipped “if you don’t test” then you cannot miss a match for Covid but with New Zealand testing their players England will have to follow suit if they show symptoms.

England still expect Stokes to be fit and lead the team. Changes elsewhere are likely, however. Jamie and Craig Overton could become the first twins to play Test cricket for England together if they decide to make changes to the bowling line-up, or if Stokes is ruled out and they have to reshuffle.

Twin brothers Craig (R) and Jamie Overton pose for a picture during nets ahead of the third Test Match between England and New Zealand at Headingley on June 21, 2022 in Leeds, England - GETTY IMAGES
Twin brothers Craig (R) and Jamie Overton pose for a picture during nets ahead of the third Test Match between England and New Zealand at Headingley on June 21, 2022 in Leeds, England - GETTY IMAGES

The England bowlers have enjoyed a week off since the second Test but will play two matches in 13 days. Brendon McCullum will be adamant England go for the win this week and pick the best team for the conditions but the India series can still be levelled and it was always unlikely that Anderson and Broad would play four Test matches before the first week of July.

Matt Potts has bowled more overs than any seamer in the country and Headingley is a ground where England could be tempted to leave out the spinner but Stokes and McCullum are keen to make Jack Leach feel wanted and to judge him after a good run of games.

Jamie is bowling at over 90mph this season and if they feel the pitch is flat, England will see that extra pace as a potential game changer. Craig enjoyed his best match for England at Headingley last year on a seaming pitch against India and has been a member of every squad this series.

Jamie hit Craig on the head last week in a county match for Surrey against Somerset and also forced Josh Davey to retire from the match due to concussion.

At 6ft5ins and with a shortened run-up which he believes is giving him more momentum through the crease, Jamie has gone from starting the summer looking to hold down a place in the Surrey side to the verge of a Test debut.

Craig thinks his twin is the quickest bowler in county cricket at the moment and McCullum must be tempted to add a pace dimension to his attack, especially as he seems to favour the short ball against the tail.

Both can bat - Jamie scored a maiden first-class hundred last summer - and would lengthen the tail considerably.

“It will feel pretty special to play together,” said Jamie. “It’s a moment that we’ve always wanted. At times it has looked like it’s not going to happen, so the fact it potentially could happen on Thursday is really magical. Our parents are coming up tomorrow, to be ready for the first day in case I do get the call-up. It’s a nice moment for all of us. I actually called dad first and he didn’t answer, he had no signal. Then I called Craig. It was a nice call, Craig didn’t expect it either, so it was a nice moment.”

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