England all-rounder –Ben Stokes is expected to make a Test return with New Zealand series, but his minor back injury can prove to be an obstacle to his hopes, as he has been ruled out of the warm-up opener against the New Zealand XI.
The teams are scheduled to play two two-day warm-ups before going into the two-match Test series starting from Wednesday (14 March) followed by 16 March, while the first Test will be played on 22 March (Thursday) at Eden Park, in Auckland followed by final Test on 30 March at Christchurch.
It is learned that Stokes’ injury is not that serious to put his highly-anticipated return in jeopardy, as the Durham all-rounder is expected to be fit for the second warm-up, starting on Friday.
Besides Stokes, all-rounder Chris Woakes and Craig Overton will also miss the opening practice match due to hamstring and quad injuries respectively. Meanwhile, James Anderson has been appointed as Test vice-skipper by England and Wales Board (ECB) on Tuesday.
It would have been Stokes' first appearance in the competitive match since September 2017 when he played his last Test against West Indies, and after which the all-rounder has ruled out the action following his alleged involvement in a fray outside a Bristol City nightclub on 25 September.However, the 26-year-old has pleaded not guilty to a charge of affray.
In their New Zealand tour, England has previously won the five-match One Day International series 3-2 and would definitely like to win the Tests as well.