Cumbrian Ben Stokes a fitness doubt for Test opener in New Zealand

Cumbrian Ben Stokes a fitness doubt for Test opener in New Zealand

Stokes is returning from six months out of the Test side following his arrest in Bristol, but has lately been troubled by a lower back injury picked up in the fifth ODI against New Zealand.

He has only missed one Test since his debut in 2014 - against West Indies, in Antigua in 2015, when he had an abdominal injury - and at his best helped make England's lower order among the most feared in the world while manfully carrying the role of lead spinner (except for that odd period past year when the tag was given to Liam Dawson) even though it has never been his specialist discipline.

Since making his five-day debut against Sri Lanka in Colombo in 2007, the Nottinghamshire all-rounder has grown into a mainstay of the England outfit - not least through his devastating new-ball partnership with James Anderson.

They have been thin on the ground over the past two years - including in this winter's 4-0 Ashes defeat.

Should Joe Root, the England captain, continue his plans from the warm-ups, then Broad will come on as first change after Jimmy Anderson and Chris Woakes, thus ending his long-standing new-ball partnership with the former.

"I'm really not sure which way we'll go [in the first Test] ... we're going to be slightly less rigid in the way we go about things, just to try to create pressure for longer periods of time". But I've just spoken to Trev (Bayliss) and certainly no decision has been made for Thursday.

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"I think my action had fallen into a place where it needed repairing, after bowling so much to left-handers round the wicket - in training and in matches".

However, Kiwi-born Stokes is in doubt with a back injury that forced him to play little part in four days of practice cricket against a New Zealand XI in Hamilton.

Moeen, 30, said: "The Ashes was quite tough for me so the one-dayers came at a good time".

"You're just trying to get a feeling back for what cricket is".

Stuart Broad in action during the Ashes series in Australia. "I've got that buzz back".

Broad is just one away from a 400th Test wicket, and could reach the milestone in the upcoming series on Thursday. "It's not necessarily just about taking the individual wickets".

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