England Test captain Ben Stokes set to make first Durham appearance in two years

England Test captain Ben Stokes will make his first Durham appearance in two years later this week, taking on Ashes rival Nathan Lyon.

Having made himself unavailable for next month’s T20 World Cup, Stokes is focusing on his red-ball game and a return to all-rounder duties after spending the majority of the past year as a specialist batter.

The 32-year-old took an extended break after the conclusion of England’s Test tour of India, sitting out the first five games of his county’s top-flight return, but is now ready for his comeback.

Stokes (left) and Nathan Lyon (middle) will go head to head in Blackpool.
Stokes (left) and Nathan Lyon (middle) will go head to head in Blackpool (Mike Egerton/PA)

He will travel to Blackpool to take on Lancashire, who are expected to recall Australia spinner Lyon after he was rested this week. He and Stokes have faced each other in 30 Tests over more than a decade, including a memorable tussle during the England skipper’s Headingley miracle in 2019.

Stokes could also come up against international team-mate Tom Hartley, should the Red Rose find room for both slow bowlers, and fit-again seamer Saqib Mahmood. Durham have Matthew Potts and Brydon Carse, two of the men hoping to vie for James Anderson’s Test shirt when he retires later this summer, in their ranks.

Teeing up Stokes’ appearance, Durham coach Ryan Campbell told BBC Radio Newcastle: “I suggest if you’ve got a few days over the weekend, you get yourself down to Blackpool to watch the great Ben Stokes return for Durham.

“Suddenly there’s just this air of excitement around the place just when he walks in the room. You want to play against the best players in the world. But to have one of those in our own team, to show us the way, his experiences, it’s unbelievable.”

Speaking after his side’s drawn game against Hampshire, Campbell added: “For us we always talk about playing against the best players in the competition, but to have one in your own team makes life a whole lot different.

“It will also lift the blokes. Some of them haven’t played with Ben for years, if at all. I’m sure the crowds in Blackpool will swell. England cricket needs a fit Ben Stokes.”

Stokes’ last competitive appearance saw him bowl India captain Rohit Sharma with his first competitive delivery since July and he is expected to take some overs for Durham as he builds up his bowling loads ahead of the Test summer.

Meanwhile, Jofra Archer is likely to feature for Sussex 2nd XI in Beckenham later this week. The pace bowler has been out for almost a year with his latest stress fracture but is set to join up with England’s T20 squad for next week’s series against Pakistan.

It is hoped he will drop into the side on Thursday or Friday to bowl a spell as he continues a lengthy rehabilitation leading up to next month’s T20 World Cup.