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England's captain Ben Stokes celebrates after guiding England to victory over New Zealand in the second Test. The all-rounder's illness is a cause of worry for the hosts. Image Credit: AFP

Headingley: England skipper Ben Stokes on Tuesday was absent from England’s preparations for the third Test due to illness.

The all-rounder fell ill over the weekend while back in Cockermouth and as a result has yet to join the team in Leeds for the third Test, which begins at Headingley on Thursday. He was originally planning to be in position on Monday with the squad officially due to convene at the ground on Tuesday morning for an afternoon training session.

As per an ECB spokesperson, Stokes had returned a negative result from a Covid-19 test taken on Tuesday morning. There is hope that Stokes will be healthy enough to rejoin the squad in the next 24 hours and take his place in the playing XI in Headingley Test as England look to finish the three-match series on a high after victories at Lord’s and Trent Bridge.

No vice-captain

However, with some uncertainty on how he might pull up on Wednesday — including the possibility of returning a positive result if he is tested again — there could be selection issues for head coach Brendon McCullum, an ESPNcricinfo report said.

Notably, Stokes has still not appointed his vice-captain, meaning there is no natural fill-in at present. Joe Root, who stepped down as skipper in April after five years in the role, could return as a one-off. But England still could have problems in terms of the balance of their side as there is no clear all-rounder replacement to occupy Stokes’ role at No 6 and contribute as a frontline seam bowler.

Deserving home debut

Within England’s 14-man squad, the closest player in terms of skillset is Somerset’s Craig Overton, while Harry Brook would fit the bill as a batter, and is more than deserving of a home debut. Both may well play with England considering changes to their bowling attack in relation to workload management, given they face India at Edgbaston just three days after the scheduled finish in Leeds.

Regardless of which two of James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Matthew Potts, England decide to rest, Surrey’s Jamie Overton, twin brother of Craig, could also make his debut.