England face the prospect of having to manage Ben Stokes' knee injury through the Champions Trophy, with the allrounder admitting the team's medical staff is unclear on the full extent of the problem. Stokes has been rested from the final ODI of the series with South Africa, along with Chris Woakes andMoeen Ali, with England calling up Steven Finn, Toby Roland-Jones and Liam Dawson as replacements.
Stokes has been experiencing pain in his left knee when bowling and is due to go for a scan in the coming days. He was named Man of the Match after scoring 101 and taking 1 for 12 in England's series-sealing victory at the Ageas Bowl on Saturday, but sent down just five overs across two matches against South Africa and said afterwards that the injury remains something of a mystery.
"It's just my delivery stride, a little bit of sensation running up the side of my knee," he said. "Batting, running around the field, everything like that is fine. We're managing it as well as we can with our physios and doctors, and myself. It's an injury I've had before and sometimes will just go away - there are good days and bad days, I could wake up tomorrow and it be completely gone. We'll just have to monitor it over the next few days."
Stokes required surgery to repair a cartilage tear in the same knee last year, after injuring it during the Test series with Sri Lanka, and was out for several weeks. He said he was not sure if the current problem was related. "It comes and goes, on certain days I don't know if it's going to be good or not. We only really find out how it is when I start bowling."
Although Stokes is expected to be fit for England's Champions Trophy opener against Bangladesh on Thursday, the problem is bound to cause concerns about his workload, given his importance in balancing the one-day side. He has spent much of the last two months playing his first season at the IPL, where he featured in 12 matches for Rising Pune Supergiant.
"We're going to get a few more scans, to get a bit more of an idea about what's happening. Then the doctors, physios, strength and conditioning coaches have a clear idea of what we can do to counteract it and maybe take the problem away, which is obviously what I want and what the medical staff wants. So hopefully it will become a bit clearer.
Eoin Morgan, England's captain, admitted the aim was to try and "build up" Stokes' knee to get him through the Champions Trophy and said the decision to only give him three overs in the second ODI, which went down to the final ball, was part of such planning.
"We're constantly monitoring him and trying to manage him as best as we can," Morgan said. "There was a very similar game this time last year when he played against Pakistan and only bowled a few overs with the same injury, we're trying to build it up again with the Champions Trophy in mind. It's a very strange injury, he aggravates it when he bowls, in his delivery stride. He's good to play as a batsman if need be but obviously we want Ben Stokes the allrounder."
Woakes, who took four wickets in England's 72-run win at Headingley on Wednesday, missed the second ODI with a tight quad. He and Moeen, who was Man of the Match in the first ODI but has picked up a groin niggle, are also expected to be fit for England's Champions Trophy campaign.