Ben Stokes has fired his first shots of the Ashes series - and broken his self-imposed Twitter silence in the process - to increase speculation that he could be getting ready to make a return to international duty in the not-too-distant future.
Stokes, who was withdrawn from England's Ashes squad in the wake of his arrest in Bristol on September 25, has kept a low profile ever since footage was circulated by the Sun newspaper, purporting to show him swinging punches at two men in an alley outside a nightclub at 2.30am.
However, responding to a Fox Sports article circulating on Twitter, in which the former Australia opener Matthew Hayden denounced the England team as a "rabble", Stokes wrote: "Hayden says he doesn't know who half our squad is....only 2 from the squad haven't played at International level.....he's a cricket pundit yeah??"
Hayden says he doesn't know who half our squad is....only 2 from the squad haven't played at International level.....he's a cricket pundit yeah?? https://t.co/5UVT0jRQMY
— Ben Stokes (@benstokes38) November 20, 2017
Stokes' comments follow his publication of an Instagram story on Friday, showing him bowling at full tilt in the nets at his county, Durham, under the legend "Grafting", as well as putting sponsor's stickers onto the back of his bats.
As yet, there is no official word about Stokes' status as an England cricketer. He remains under investigation by Avon and Somerset Police following his actions in Bristol, as well as subject to an internal disciplinary hearing by the ECB.
However, the official ECB line, as confirmed recently by the chief executive, Tom Harrison, is that the board is in a "holding pattern". Until the police reveal their intention, or otherwise, to prosecute, there can be no prospect of a recall.
Speaking at a business breakfast in London two weeks ago, Harrison confirmed that the ECB was keen to "rehabilitate reputations on the field", adding that he still considered the England team to be great role models and that the events in Bristol had been an "aberration".
"We have to get that balance between censure and support absolutely right," Harrison said. "I think cricket's response to this will show the value of the game in the best light.
"I think we will quickly recover to a place where the game is seen as doing its best to rehabilitate reputations on the field, and try to get Ben and Alex [Hales] back to a place where fans are really behind them, trying to do what they do best."
Other than a tribute to the fallen on Armistice Day (November 11), Stokes' previous activity on social media had come on October 11, when he tweeted a public apology to the model Katie Price.