England all-rounder Ben Stokes has raised hopes of a surprising Ashes return and has posted a video on social media of his first online session in months.
Stokes recently underwent another surgery on his broken finger, after taking an indefinite break from the game nearly three months ago to deal with his mental health.
The 30-year-old initially suffered the finger injury while playing in the Indian Premier League in April.
He was not named in England’s 17-man ash team, but coach Chris Silverwood said earlier this week that the door remains open for the star’s all-rounder.
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“Great to be back with hitting balls,” Stokes wrote on Instagram, posting three short clips out of him who had throwdowns.
“It’s hugely positive and hugely exciting,” said England performance manager Mo Bobat.
“It certainly looks like the extra medical things that have happened, and the removal of scar tissue and everything else he had done has freed his finger, and it has given him that sense of confidence back in his fingers.
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“Ultimately, given what he has experienced and where he has been, it is important that he and we move at the right pace for him. There is certainly no pressure or expectation from us.
“It’s a case of us supporting Ben physically and how we should otherwise support but support him so he can continue to develop at the pace he wants and he feels comfortable.”
Stokes proved the difference in the 2-2 series draw in England in 2019, including a remarkable innings of 135 not out at Headingley, which saw the home side steal a famous win.
Former Australian captain Mark Taylor told the Wide World of Sports earlier this week that if Stokes had not been on the English team, Australia would probably have won the series 3-0 or 4-0.
At the announcement of England’s squad earlier this week, Silverwood said the door remained open for Stokes to return.
“Ben is moving forward, the communication I have had with him is certainly more optimistic,” he explained.
“But what I want to say is that there will be no pressure from me that he is rushing back. I have said, ‘When you are ready, you call me and we make a plan from there.’ is no pressure from me and no date on it.
“I will not tell him that when he returns. I will be led by him, and my concern is first and foremost his well-being. And when he returns, we will make sure he is in the right place.”
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