Durham to treat Ben Stokes with kid gloves

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DURHAM will keep a watchful eye on ace Ben Stokes as they try to manage the talented all-rounder through a back problem, writes Gary Foster.

Stokes will have a scan to try to discover the reason for the 21-year-old’s discomfort, but it will have to wait until they can fit it in around their hectic early-season schedule.

Durham head to Edgbaston for their next County Championship clash against Warwickshire, which starts on Wednesday at 11am.

Stokes, pictured, has travelled with the squad, but is likely to be used as a batsman only for the clash in a bid not to aggravate his back problem.

But the Durham ace hopes to be back firing on all cylinders sooner rather than later.

“I’ve had stress reactions in my back before, but this does not feel like that,” he said. “We’re taking a few precautions and the scan is part of that.

“We’ve got a good physio and I hope to be OK soon. It would be a setback if I could not bowl for a while after I’d just got back into it.”

Stokes had a frustrating winter after needing surgery to deal with problems arising from a badly dislocated finger.

It left the all-rounder unable to grip the ball properly and he was flown out to the US for specialist help.

He explained: “Basically, they took a bit of bone from the back of my hand and put it into the joint. It still doesn’t look good, but it’s a lot better than it was. I was glad to have the ECB physio with me when I went for the operation.”

Stokes will be hoping the problem is sorted before he lines up for England Lions against the West Indies at Northampton on May 10.

“It’s fantastic to be involved with England Lions again,” he said. “Last year it opened my eyes to what you have to do to be a top-class cricketer.

“At the moment I just want to do well for Durham.”

Durham suffered a frustrating time at the Kia Oval last week as their four-day game with Surrey was a complete washout.

A rain-affected draw in their previous clash with Middlesex did Durham’s title hopes no favours either and Geoff Cook’s men currently find themselves on the bottom of the Divison One table with just 13 points.

This week sees them go up against leaders Warwickshire, who are 37 points ahead of them, and they will be hoping that they manage to get in enough cricket to allow them to get some more points on the board as they look to close the gap on the early pacesetters.