Dubai: There is some good news in store for the Rajasthan Royals fans: Ben Stokes, the star England allrounder, will not be skipping the Indian Premier League after all.
While the team got off to a 16-run win over the formidable Chennai Super Kings in their first match in Sharjah on Tuesday, the news of the matchwinner joining the squad possibly by the first week of October will be music to their ears. Stokes, who missed England’s last two Tests against Pakistan and then skipped the entire white ball series against Australia, is now in New Zealand to be with his ailing father Ged.
Stokes’s father was hospitalised last December in South Africa during England’s tour, and has since been known to be recuperating in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Well placed team sources confirmed to Gulf News that he is expected to arrive early in October, which can see him assisting the Royals for upto 10 of the 14 league matches. The ‘Big Four’ of the squad: skipper Steve Smith, Jos Buttler, Jofra Archer and Stokes can then be quite a handful for the opposition.
Meanwhile, Jos Buttler, the England wicketkeeper-batsman who is still in quarantine as he arrived separately with his family, is expected to join practice from Thursday. Royals play Kings XI Punjab next in Sharjah on September 27.
Meanwhile, Sanju Samson, Man of the Match on Tuesday night, said it was an “absolute pleasure” to bat with Steve Smith as the Australian showed no lingering effects from a concussion in helping his side beat Chennai.
Smith, who missed Australia’s three-match ODI series against England earlier this month after he was hit on the head by a ball in the nets, struck a fluent 69 to guide the Royals to a 16-run victory over the Super Kings. He joined the Royals camp last week but his participation in their season-opener had been in doubt until he passed a concussion test.
The 31-year-old, who opened the batting, smashed four sixes and four boundaries in a 47-ball 69. His second-wicket partnership of 121 with Samson paved the way for the Royals to post a hefty 216-7.
“Absolute pleasure to bat with him. He is the world’s best batsman,” said Samson, who lit up Sharjah with his 32-ball 74. “When he goes out and bats 20 overs, it becomes easy for the others coming in.” The Super Kings managed 200-6 in response.