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England get Ben Stokes boost, but might lose Ollie Pope for Boxing Day Test

Allrounder set to return to training following positive updates on his father's health

George Dobell
George Dobell
Ben Stokes should return to training on Christmas Day  •  Getty Images

Ben Stokes should return to training on Christmas Day  •  Getty Images

England are hopeful that Ben Stokes will be able to play in the Boxing Day Test after an improvement in the condition of his father, Ged.
Ged Stokes was hospitalised on Monday after being taken ill in Johannesburg. While he remains in intensive care, he has responded positively to treatment and is now in a stable condition. Ben, who missed training on Tuesday in order to spent time with his family, is expected to take full part in training on Christmas Day with a view to playing in the first Test against South Africa starting on Thursday.
But England have been hit by further sickness within their squad with Ollie Pope the latest to report symptoms of the bug that has affected them throughout the tour so far. Pope will not be able to train on Christmas Day and must, therefore, be considered a doubt for the Test. Jonny Bairstow would be the most likely candidate to replace him in the side if necessary.
Chris Woakes also remains sidelined with illness, while Jack Leach has suffered a recurrence of the problem and was also unable to train on Christmas Day. Leach's situation is complicated by his long-term struggle with Crohn's disease. He spent the final days of the New Zealand tour in hospital due to gastroenteritis and is unlikely to be deemed fit for selection for the first Test here.
None of Pope, Woakes or Leach have yet been ruled out of contention but, with temperatures in Centurion expected to rise sharply in the coming days, England will be wary of taking any risks over the fitness and health of any of their players.
The Stokes family, meanwhile, have thanked cricket lovers for their support. In particular, they have expressed their gratitude to the medical practitioners in Johannesburg for their care of Ged.
The England side are expected to wear black armbands in the game as a mark of respect for former captain, Bob Willis, who died recently.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo