England allrounder Ben Stokes has been reprimanded for making "an inappropriate comment" during the second day's play in Headingley. He received one demerit point for the offence, taking his total up to three; if he gets to four demerit points, he faces a suspension on disciplinary grounds.
The news that Stokes is one more intemperate outburst away from a ban adds to England's growing list of potential issues ahead of the Ashes. As a key cog in the side, as well as Joe Root's vice-captain, his potential absence for a Test against Australia would be hard felt.
Stokes received one demerit point apiece in October and November 2016 for similar verbal offences. Each demerit point remains on a player's record for 24 months, meaning one more offence before the end of October 2018 will result in suspension for Stokes from one Test or two ODIs or two T20Is, whichever comes first - except in the case of more grave offences, which could attract longer suspensions.
The incident occurred after the fifth ball off the 101st over of the West Indies innings, when Shai Hope hit Stokes through the cordon for four. Stokes' subsequent expletive was "clearly audible through the stump mic and also heard by the match officials", according to an ICC release, and amounted to a breach of Article 2.1.4 of the ICC Code of Conduct which deals with "using language or a gesture that is obscene, offensive or insulting during an international match".
The charge was brought against Stokes by the match umpires, and the penalty levied by match referee David Boon. Stokes accepted the offence, so there was no hearing required.
Stokes has been one of England's most consistent batsmen this summer, scoring hundreds against South Africa and during the ongoing match at Headingley. With questions over the top five, England could ill afford to be without him in Australia.
While there have been some suggestions he could try to "tactically" pick up another demerit point and serve a ban during a less high-profile series - the limited-overs matches against West Indies, for example - that would carry further risk. Points remain on a player's record for a two-year period and suspensions become cumulative, meaning Stokes would face a ban of two Tests or four ODIs if he were to reach eight before October 2018.