Ben Stokes to return to cricket in New Zealand

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WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) – England cricketer Ben Stokes will play for Canterbury province in New Zealand’s domestic one-day competition starting on Sunday, despite being barred from international play as he waits to learn whether he will be charged over his part in a nightclub assault in September.

Canterbury Cricket confirmed on Thursday that it had approved Stokes’ selection for the Canterbury team which will play Otago in a match at Rangiora, near Christchurch. His selection has also been approved by the England Cricket Board, New Zealand Cricket and the New Zealand Cricket Players’ Association.

The decision to select the 26-year-old New Zealand-born allrounder coincides with news that police in England have passed details of their investigation into the Sept. 25 assault outside a Bristol nightclub to Britain’s Crown Prosecution Service.

Canterbury Cricket Association Chief Executive Jez Curwin, right, and director of cricket Gary Stead address a press conference on the signing of England cricketer Ben Stokes in Christchurch, New Zealand, Thursday, Nov. 30, 2017. Stokes will play for Canterbury province in New Zealand's domestic one-day competition beginning Sunday, Dec. 3, despite being barred from international play as he waits to learn whether he will be charged over his part in a nightclub assault in September.(AP Photo/Mark Baker)

Canterbury Cricket Association Chief Executive Jez Curwin, right, and director of cricket Gary Stead address a press conference on the signing of England cricketer Ben Stokes in Christchurch, New Zealand, Thursday, Nov. 30, 2017. Stokes will play for Canterbury province in New Zealand’s domestic one-day competition beginning Sunday, Dec. 3, despite being barred from international play as he waits to learn whether he will be charged over his part in a nightclub assault in September.(AP Photo/Mark Baker)

The Avon and Somerset police said they had asked the prosecution service for “charging advice” after concluding their investigation into the assault in which a 27-year-old man suffered a fractured eye socket. The incident occurred while Stokes and England teammate Alex Hales were celebrating England’s win over the West Indies in a one-day international.

Stokes hasn’t played for England since. The England and Wales Cricket Board placed him under suspension but the ban applies only to England matches and it has raised no objection to Stokes playing in New Zealand and for the province in which he was born.

The board of Canterbury Cricket met on Wednesday night to discuss whether it would approve Stokes’ selection.

In a statement, Canterbury coach Gary Stead said the team and management were “thrilled Ben Stokes has joined the team and believes he has a tremendous amount to offer.”

“After the approach from Ben’s representatives, everything has happened very quickly for us,” Stead said “While Ben awaits the outcome of an investigation under way in the U.K. he wants to maintain his fitness and connection to the game. He is a brilliant allround player and we are really pleased to have secured one of the world’s best players in our domestic competition.”

Stokes’ selection could see him return to the England team during the current Ashes series. England lost the first test of the series by 10 wickets in Brisbane, and the second test starts Saturday in Adelaide.

If charges are not laid or if they are delayed it might be possible for Stokes to join the England team in time for the third test of the series at Perth from Dec. 14.

Stokes arrived in Christchurch from England on Wednesday, ostensibly to visit his parents Deborah and Gerard. He refused to answer questions at Christchurch airport other than to say he was visiting family and hoped to work on his golf swing.

Canterbury Cricket had indicated during the week it was keen to select Stokes for its team which is struggling with injuries.

Meanwhile, International Cricket Council chief executive Dave Richardson said his organization had no part to play in any immediate decisions around Stokes’ future.

“It’s really in the hands of the England and Wales Cricket Board,” Richardson said in Wellington on Thursday, where he attended the launch of the 2018 under-19 World Cup.

“The ICC doesn’t have jurisdiction and doesn’t get involved. If he plays, obviously he hasn’t been charged with anything yet, so he plays.

“People get involved in things you don’t want to necessarily get involved in and you’re not going to be perfect angels all the time.”

New Zealand-born England cricket star Ben Stokes, right, is surrounded by media as he arrives in Christchurch, New Zealand, Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2017. Stokes is in New Zealand to visit family and possibly play for Canterbury province during his stay. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)

New Zealand-born England cricket star Ben Stokes, right, is surrounded by media as he arrives in Christchurch, New Zealand, Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2017. Stokes is in New Zealand to visit family and possibly play for Canterbury province during his stay. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)

Canterbury Cricket Association Chief Executive Jez Curwin addresses a press conference on the signing of England cricketer Ben Stokes in Christchurch, New Zealand, Thursday, Nov. 30, 2017. Stokes will play for Canterbury province in New Zealand's domestic one-day competition beginning Sunday, Dec. 3, despite being barred from international play as he waits to learn whether he will be charged over his part in a nightclub assault in September.(AP Photo/Mark Baker)

Canterbury Cricket Association Chief Executive Jez Curwin addresses a press conference on the signing of England cricketer Ben Stokes in Christchurch, New Zealand, Thursday, Nov. 30, 2017. Stokes will play for Canterbury province in New Zealand’s domestic one-day competition beginning Sunday, Dec. 3, despite being barred from international play as he waits to learn whether he will be charged over his part in a nightclub assault in September.(AP Photo/Mark Baker)

New Zealand-born England cricket star Ben Stokes is surrounded by media as he arrives in Christchurch, New Zealand, Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2017. British media reported that Stokes is traveling to Christchurch, New Zealand to visit his parents, with a report in the Telegraph newspaper said Christchurch-born Stokes hoped to play for Canterbury province during his stay. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)

New Zealand-born England cricket star Ben Stokes is surrounded by media as he arrives in Christchurch, New Zealand, Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2017. British media reported that Stokes is traveling to Christchurch, New Zealand to visit his parents, with a report in the Telegraph newspaper said Christchurch-born Stokes hoped to play for Canterbury province during his stay. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)

New Zealand-born England cricket star Ben Stokes signs an autograph for a fan after arriving in Christchurch, New Zealand, Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2017. British media reported that Stokes is traveling to Christchurch, New Zealand to visit his parents, with a report in the Telegraph newspaper said Christchurch-born Stokes hoped to play for Canterbury province during his stay. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)

New Zealand-born England cricket star Ben Stokes signs an autograph for a fan after arriving in Christchurch, New Zealand, Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2017. British media reported that Stokes is traveling to Christchurch, New Zealand to visit his parents, with a report in the Telegraph newspaper said Christchurch-born Stokes hoped to play for Canterbury province during his stay. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)

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