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Rediff.com  » Cricket » Cric Buzz: Stokes return will lift England, says Moeen

Cric Buzz: Stokes return will lift England, says Moeen

Last updated on: March 19, 2018 15:40 IST

Ben Stokes

IMAGE: Ben Stokes loosens up alongside Moeen Ali during the England nets session. Photograph: Michael Steele/Getty Images

The return of all-rounder Ben Stokes will be a welcome boost to the England squad as he provides much-needed balance and lifts morale, team mate Moeen Ali said ahead of the two-match Test series in New Zealand.

 

Stokes returned for the one-day internationals against New Zealand last month after a lengthy absence due to an affray charge relating to an incident in September, helping England win the series 3-2.

The 26-year-old faces a late fitness Test after sitting out the warm-up game against New Zealand XI due to a back injury. Stokes also missed the Ashes series in Australia which England lost 4-0.

"He's always great for the team," Moeen told The Telegraph. "The balance of the team is pretty much sorted when he's in the team."

"It's just having him in the side, knowing we've got a much stronger side when he's playing. It gives everyone else a good lift, and obviously him being at slip for me, he's very good in that position."

"He's ready to go and ready to perform and give back to the team, which I'm sure he wants to do for what happened earlier."

New Zealand put up a fight in the ODI series, taking a 2-1 lead before England won the last two games and Moeen is expecting another tough challenge from the hosts.

"I think it's going to be quite a tight series. I think they've got a very good side and some world-class players who are in good form and some very good bowlers as well," Moeen added.

"I think the difference will be how low we bat - our tail, with (Chris) Woakesy probably going to be number nine now, we bat all the way down."

Moeen, 30, will play his 50th Test in New Zealand's first home day-night Test starting on Thursday in Auckland.

Bancroft confident of Starc recovery for third Test

Australia opening batsman Cameron Bancroft is unsure what to expect from the Newlands pitch for the third Test against South Africa starting on Thursday but he is expecting Mitchell Starc to overcome a sore calf in time to play.

Australia’s players had a four-day break after their six-wicket defeat in the second Test in Port Elizabeth to level the four-match series at 1-1, but fast bowler Starc was a notable absentee from training on Monday.

All-rounder Mitchell Marsh, who has been battling with a groin injury, bowled in the nets, though not at full pace, and Bancroft does not believe there is too much to read into Starc's absence.

"The four days off have been good for everyone, especially our bowlers, they have done a lot of work in the last six months," Bancroft told reporters on Monday.

"Sometimes the bowlers just work their way into the games a little bit differently, his (Starc's) preparation might be a little bit different going into this game."

"I think in the past, he's bowled a couple of days out and had that third day as a bit of a rest day. Hopefully he'll bowl (on Tuesday), I'm sure he'll be ok."

For Bancroft the time off was an important chance to recharge batteries, but Australia are now fully focused for preparing for another hard-fought Test on a seamer-friendly wicket.

"I have had a bit of a squizz (look) at the wicket. I’ve not played a test match here before, but in the games gone by the wicket has offered a little bit more with the ball and been challenging for batters," he said.

"We will prepare for a lot of different scenarios. But we also know in history gone by when Australia have played here what the wickets are like."

Bancroft, 25, believes Australia are in a good frame of mind for the third Test, even if his own build-up has been a bit rocky.

"A few of the guys went shark diving the other day, I was pretty sea sick for the whole time, so I will be laying off boats for now," he said.

"Some guys went up Table Mountain, others went away on safari. That is the beauty of playing cricket around the world, you get to come to amazing places like Cape Town."

"It has been a good refresher, but now time to get our heads back on."

New Zealand add Guptill to squad for first England Test

New Zealand have added experienced batsman Martin Guptill to their 13-man squad for the first Test against England in Auckland, a day-nighter which starts on Thursday.

With Ross Taylor battling a thigh injury sustained during the one-day series against the touring side, Guptill's inclusion will give New Zealand a extra option across the batting order.

"We opted for extra batting cover for that final spot and with Martin having been playing in the middle-order recently, he can cover a number of positions for us," selector Gavin Larsen said in a statement from New Zealand Cricket.

"Ross is progressing nicely and is expected to take a full part in training tomorrow (Tuesday). The team are looking forward to what will be a special match beginning on Thursday."

The first match in the two-Test series at Eden Park will be the maiden day-nighter in New Zealand

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