Canterbury sign Ben Stokes as overseas player

Canterbury have signed England allrounder Ben Stokes as their overseas player. Stokes will be available for selection for Canterbury's 50-over Ford Trophy match against Otago in Rangiora on Sunday.

Stokes' inclusion was agreed upon by Canterbury Cricket Association and the ECB, and was sanctioned by New Zealand Cricket, a release from the association said. The Canterbury cricket board held an emergency meeting on Wednesday to discuss the prospect of signing Stokes.

Canterbury coach Gary Stead welcomed Stokes' signing.

"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. "Ben will bring international experience to what is a relatively youthful changing room. He will also bring depth to our seam attack which has been affected by a string of injuries and provide more balance and firepower to our batting line up.

"While Ben awaits the outcome of an investigation underway in the UK, he wants to maintain his fitness and his connection with the game. He is a brilliant all-round player and we are really pleased to have secured one of the world's best players in our domestic competition. His experience will be invaluable to our young cricketers as we look defend our Ford Trophy title and improve performances in the Burger King Super Smash. The team have expressed their excitement about the opportunity to learn from and play with Ben."

Stokes arrived in the country on Wednesday on a private trip to see his family but had also been granted a No-Objection Certificate by the ECB on November 24 allowing him to play professional cricket in New Zealand. The allrounder is not serving an official ban but has been stood down from playing international cricket as the ECB awaits the decision of the Avon and Somerset police on whether he will be charged for his involvement in a fracas outside a Bristol nightclub, which occurred in September. On Wednesday, the police said they had completed their investigation into the incident and had passed on a file to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) for advice on whether Stokes should be charged.

The police also confirmed that a 27-year-old man suffered a fractured eye socket in the incident which occurred outside the Mbargo nightclub in the Clifton area of the city on the evening of England's one-day international against West Indies on September 25.

Realistically, it looks most unlikely that Stokes will play any part in the Ashes series. Even if the CPS decide not to charge him - and that decision is expected to take two to three weeks - the ECB's Cricket Discipline Commission and the ECB board would have to agree to any return.

The ECB board will meet within 48-hours of the CPS announcing their decision and discuss whether it is appropriate for Stokes to represent England. And, while any ban could be backdated - Stokes has already missed two ODIs at the end of the English summer as well as the first two Ashes Tests - it seems unlikely that any return could occur before the end of the Ashes series in little more than five weeks.