Suspended England star Ben Stokes gave a rusty performance on his highly anticipated return to cricket Sunday in a provincial one-day match in New Zealand, his country of birth.
Amid speculation the all-rounder was using the match as a tune-up in case he earns a dramatic Ashes call-up, he looked out of form when he turned out for Canterbury against Otago.
Batting at number four, Stokes lasted only seven balls and contributed just two runs towards Canterbury’s 221.
He then proved unsuccessful with the ball, taking none for 49 off nine overs as Otago chased down the target with 15 balls to spare.
While England are playing before a 55,000-plus crowd in the second Ashes Test against Australia in Adelaide, Stokes turned out before a crowd of several hundred at a village ground on the outskirts of Christchurch.
They were clearly disappointed, too, when the acclaimed England representative player trudged from the field early in the Canterbury innings with his leg stump flattened.
It was only the 20th wicket in 76 matches for Otago spinner Anaru Kitchen.
It had been 69 days since Stokes last played and he had only one practice with Canterbury after arriving in New Zealand four days ago.
He is currently banned from international cricket while British authorities probe his alleged involvement in a late-night fight outside a Bristol nightclub.
The 26-year-old has maintained he was in New Zealand on a family visit.