England hope Stokes will be fit for final Black Caps Test

Source: AAP

England are crossing their fingers over captain Ben Stokes' fitness for this week's Headingley Test after illness forced him to sit out training on a day that saw Covid-19 return to the camp.

Ben Stokes.

Stokes was conspicuous by his absence on Tuesday afternoon (UK time) as the rest of the squad began preparations for the final match of the Test series against New Zealand, having reported feeling unwell.

A spokesperson for the England and Wales Cricket Board confirmed Stokes had tested negative for coronavirus after taking a rapid lateral flow test but was being kept away from the group as a strictly precautionary measure.

Within hours the ECB announced batting coach Marcus Trescothick, who was also missing from nets, was in isolation at home after returning a positive test.

The news follows six cases within the Kiwi set-up, with Stokes' opposite number Kane Williamson, Michael Bracewell, Devon Conway and Henry Nicholls joining two backroom staff in being struck down.

Williamson was forced to miss last week's defeat at Trent Bridge - a result that sealed the series in England's favour - after testing positive on the eve of the match and, while England currently expect Stokes to rejoin the group in time for Wednesday morning's (Wednesday evening NZT) practice session the circumstances will be some cause for concern.

Even so, England's current Covid protocols are much more relaxed than at any point over the past two years, in line with public health guidance, and neither Stokes nor the remainder of the playing squad will be required to test again unless they report fresh symptoms.

Stokes will also be eager to go again after kicking off his tenure with back-to-back victories in thrilling games at Lord's and Trent Bridge, while also making his first Test appearance in Leeds since his Ashes heroics at the venue in 2019. Should he not rally sufficiently, Yorkshire batter Harry Brook stands by for a debut on home turf.