England news May 13, 2014

Prior, Stokes hope to prove fitness ahead of Lord's Test

Ben Stokes and Matt Prior, two players whom the England selectors viewed as likely starters in the first Test against Sri Lanka, hope to return to action towards the end of the month in a bid to prove their fitness for the Lord's match in June.

Stokes has not played since breaking his hand after the final T20 against West Indies, in March, an injury that ruled him out of the World T20. The healing process has been slow but James Whitaker, the national selector, said the aim was for him to be playing some form of cricket within the next weeks although he remained cautious about a return to the international stage.

"He's on the road to recovery. He's had a positive scan only yesterday so it's slowly slowly at the moment, more pressure each day and monitor it over the next week or two," Whitaker after the announcement of England's T20 and ODI squads to face Sri Lanka. "But he will be reintroduced to cricket over the next 10 or so days, very gentle, netting, perhaps an academy game, but he's another one we have to take good care of in the future.

"We're always balancing aren't we, the risk and reward, but better they come back fully fit so it helps them regain form. Let's get them back fully fit first, I think that's the right way to go."

Prior has not played since Sussex's opening Championship match of the season, against Middlesex at Hove, where he scored a hundred but did not keep wicket, due to an achilles injury. He has recently been training with an anti-gravity running machine to try to aid his recovery and is pencilled in to play against Middlesex from May 26.

If his comeback is delayed much further it is unlikely England will be able to select him for the first Test, which then leaves a conundrum over who will keep wicket. Jonny Bairstow remains the man in possession having kept in the Sydney Test in January, and has regained the gloves for Yorkshire in this round of Championship matches, while Jos Buttler made a half-century in tricky conditions against Middlesex but concerns over the pair's glovework remain.

"There's a number of viable candidates for the role - the guy that holds the spot at the moment is keeping wicket for Yorkshire," Whitaker said. "Matt Prior is injured and coming back and hopes to put himself into contention for the first Test by playing a couple of games. He decided rather than come back sooner and just batting let's try and clear it up so when he does come back he can keep and bat at the same time."

Whitaker also had words of encouragement for Liam Plunkett who has impressed with his pace and stamina for Yorkshire this season, although said he had not come into serious consideration for the limited-overs squads.

"He has made good progress and if he carries on like this he will be talked about more and more. It is great to see him playing well and you have to pay compliments to Jason Gillespie and Martyn Moxon because he looks a reinvigorated force.

"Full credit to Kevin Shine and all those guys at Loughborough for working with him on the performance programme in the winter and selecting him for the Lions. He really did a good job on some flat wickets, his energy was fantastic and he got some vital breakthroughs and his batting was a bonus at the end. Yorkshire have made a great signing.

"It is all about his state of mind. He is very relaxed now, his bowling his terrific, and long may it continue. The more options we have for all forms of the game the better, especially at that pace."

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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