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England v Ireland 2023

Brendon McCullum casts doubt over Ben Stokes’ bowling fitness ahead of Ireland Test

by Wisden Staff 3 minute read

Brendon McCullum has insisted Ben Stokes will ‘definitely be bowling’ at some point this summer, but cast doubt on his ability to do so in the upcoming Test match against Ireland.

The England captain used himself sparingly in Pakistan and New Zealand over the Test winter due to a left knee problem, and has bowled a solitary over in an injury-hit IPL campaign with Chennai Super Kings.

“At some stage throughout the summer he’ll definitely be bowling, but whether it’s this one or not, I’m not sure,” McCullum said of Stokes ahead of the Ireland Test.


“He’s found a way to be successful in difficult conditions away from home with a slightly unbalanced side, because he gets guys to believe in their own ability and do things that maybe they don’t even think are possible.

“If he is able to bowl then fantastic, it helps us a lot. If not, someone else will have to pick up the slack.”

England are already without fron-line seamers Ollie Robinson and James Anderson for the Test match, which begins at Lord’s on Thursday. Both are being rested ahead of the Ashes with minor injuries.

McCullum said Mark Wood was “going alright” but did not confirm his availability. That leaves Stuart Broad, Chris Woakes, Matthew Potts and Josh Tongue as England’s only guaranteed starters.

Tongue, who was added to the squad as injury cover, is yet to play international cricket. However, McCullum hails Tongue as a “rough diamond”, and insists that possesses “immense amount of talent”.

England will be keen to put in a better performance than in their only previous Test appearance against Ireland (they won at Lord’s, but not before being bowled out for 85 on the first morning),

However, attention is already beginning to centre on the Ashes, which gets underway on June 16. McCullum, who won just one of the 16 Trans-Tasman Tests he played for New Zealand, said of Australia: “You always felt like you were scrapping for something rather than being able to go toe-to-toe with them.

“The ability to go toe-to-toe with a good side is where the magic happens. We’ve got the quality in our team, and they’ve got the quality in their team, for a heavyweight contest so I’m excited about that.”

Australia have held the Ashes since 2017/18 and not lost a home game in the series in over a decade. A 2-2 draw also helped them retain the Ashes in 2019. However, it has been 22 years since they last won a series in England.

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