BEN STOKES will miss the final two Tests of the summer to fly to New Zealand for family reasons.
Stokes will be able to spend time with his father, Ged, who suffered a serious illness in South Africa during England’s tour last winter.
The superstar all-rounder, 29, will miss the Second Test against Pakistan at the Ageas Bowl on Thursday and the Third Test at the same bio-secure venue on August 21.
It is not known at this stage whether Stokes will be available for the three T20 matches against Pakistan which follow the Test series or three T20s and three one-day internationals against Australia, which are planned for September but yet to be confirmed.
An England spokesman said: “Stokes will leave the UK later this week and travel to New Zealand. The ECB, along with the Stokes family, requests that all media respects the family’s privacy at this time.”
Stokes has played a key role in the cricket summer so far.
He captained England in the First Test against West Indies while Joe Root was on paternity leave and then scored 176 and 78 not out – as well as three wickets – in the Second Test.
It prompted Root to describe him as “Mr. Incredible.”
Stokes leaves with England 1-0 up in the series against Pakistan after Jos Buttler and Chris Woakes guided them to a thrilling victory.
Buttler himself batted knowing that his father, Johnny, had been admitted to hospital on Friday evening for tests. He was able to return home on Saturday.
Stokes’ parents Ged, a former rugby league player and coach, and Deborah, as well as his brother James, all still live in Christchurch, New Zealand, where Ben was born.
In South Africa last winter, Stokes played a starring role in England’s come-from-behind 3-1 victory while his dad remained in hospital in Johannesburg with his wife by his side.
Ben visited them as often as the team’s schedule permitted and Ged was well enough to return to New Zealand at the end of the tour.
Whenever Stokes scores a century, he raises his hand with his finger bent over as a tribute to Ged, who had part of a finger amputated to allow him to continue playing rugby.