Ashes 2017: Ben Stokes Signs For Canterbury Sparking Speculation of England Return

English Cricketer Ben Stokes
English cricketer Ben Stokes at Christchurch Airport, Christchurch, New Zealand, November 29. Stokes could be back to competitive cricket as early as Sunday. Kai Schwoerer/Getty

Ben Stokes is set to return to competitive cricket as early as Sunday after signing with New Zealand province Canterbury in a move certain to fuel speculation that the suspended all-rounder is in line for a recall to England's Ashes squad.

Stokes was omitted from the England touring party to Australia and remains suspended pending the outcome of a police investigation into an incident outside a Bristol nightclub in September.

However, Canterbury Cricket Association (CCA) Director of Cricket Gary Stead confirmed the 26-year-old had signed as an overseas player and would be available for a one-day match against Otago on Sunday (3 December) in Rangiora, near Christchurch.

"After the approach from Ben's representatives everything has happened very quickly for us to the extent that we are now delighted to welcome Ben into the team," Stead said in a statement on Thursday.

"While Ben awaits the outcome of an investigation underway in the U.K., he wants to maintain his fitness and his connection with the game."

The confirmation came a day after police said they had passed a case file to Britain's Crown Prosecution Service and were seeking advice over whether to bring charges against Stokes following his arrest on suspicion of causing actual bodily harm.

England, meanwhile, is preparing to begin the second Ashes test in Adelaide on Saturday having lost the first by 10 wickets. Captain Joe Root said Australia's Steve Smith was the difference in the first Ashes test but has warned his teammates not to make the same mistakes.

"For three days we were excellent. Bar Steve's knock we were right in it," he said at the presentation on Monday.

"At 250-odd for four [we were] looking at trying to get 400 plus and put pressure on the scoreboard.

"In that position, having an 80-run lead would have been massive. It's frustrating. We have to move on quickly and make sure we don't make the same mistakes in Adelaide."

Smith praised the effort and resistance from the tourists. "We had to show some really good character throughout," Smith said at the post-match presentation.

"Obviously losing the toss, and the wicket was a lot slower than we anticipated it would be. We had to work really hard.

"I thought the bowlers did a terrific job to get them out for 300."