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Ben Stokes lands in New Zealand to link up with England team-mates

Yorkshire duo Liam Plunkett and David Willey embraced the all-rounder on arrival.

Ben Stokes received a warm welcome as he rejoined the England squad in New Zealand, ending his five-month exile from the international set-up.

Stokes pleaded not guilty to a charge of affray at Bristol Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday and boarded a plane at Heathrow the following day to resume work with England ahead of an anticipated on-field return later this month.

The all-rounder landed in Auckland at around 3.20pm local time (2.20am GMT), having travelled via Abu Dhabi and Melbourne, and was met by three members of the England and Wales Cricket Board’s support staff at Auckland airport before a 70-mile drive to the team hotel in Hamilton.

On hand to greet him with a hug were team-mates Liam Plunkett and David Willey, the latter pushing his five-month old son in a buggy, alongside physio Craig de Weymarn.

Stokes embraced all three in turn and spoke for several minutes before heading for his room pushing a luggage trolley. Stokes was expected to join several squad members to watch New Zealand’s tri-series game against Australia in the team room.

The 26-year-old’s last involvement with England came during a one-day international against the West Indies in Bristol on September 24.

Later that night he allegedly became involved in an altercation outside a nightclub, leading to a lengthy police investigation during which he was deemed unavailable for selection by the ECB.

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Stokes went on to miss the entire 4-0 Ashes defeat, the subsequent ODI campaign and the ongoing T20 tri-series.

England had already trained indoors at Seddon Park by time he landed, but Stokes is expected to take some part in Saturday’s practice session at the ground.

There is understood to be no chance of him playing against New Zealand 24 hours later, with England keen to ease him back in and assess his condition before sending him back out in a competitive environment.

Instead, Stokes’ focus will be on pushing for selection for the ODI series against New Zealand, which begins on February 25.

Speaking earlier in the week, head coach Trevor Bayliss suggested he expected the Durham man to be ready for action sooner rather than later.

“It’s about making a judgement call at some stage,” said the Australian. “In the past he’s been out with injuries and come back sooner than we thought. That’s the type of character he is and it doesn’t take him long at all to get back up to speed.

“He’s been indoors doing plenty in the last month or two, so it’s not as if he’s been doing absolutely nothing – it’ll just be a case of getting him on turf wickets and a few outdoor nets.”

Asked if there were any concerns about the crowd reaction on his return, Bayliss added: “He’d probably cop some anyway, even if he hadn’t been out for the last few months. It’s par for the course. It’s usually one of the better players, to try and put them off their game and Ben’s been through all that before.”

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