Stokes on his way to New Zealand to play cricket

Suspended England allrounder Ben Stokes has flown to New Zealand to play domestic cricket, making the possibility that he could get a dramatic Ashes call-up to Australia more likely.

Stokes sent social media into overdrive on Monday night when he was pictured at Heathrow airport with his England cricket kit but the ECB said he was going to New Zealand to visit family.

But it has emerged that Stokes, who was born in New Zealand and moved to the UK with his parents at the age of five, will play for Canterbury during his trip to the South Island, keeping him in shape if required for the Ashes.

Canterbury Cricket said in a statement: “(We) have been in initial informal discussions with Ben Stokes’ representatives regarding his potential availability.”

The Durham player is still suspended from playing by the ECB pending a police investigation after he was involved in a brawl outside a nightclub in Bristol in September.

However, it seems the suspension is only for international cricket and Stokes is free to play in New Zealand’s domestic competition.

England missed Stokes’ allround abilities as they went down by 10 wickets in the first Ashes Test in Brisbane with the second game of the series scheduled to start in Adelaide on Saturday.