Ben Stokes is set to make his County Championship return after two years with a match against Lancashire.

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Ben Stokes will play his first County Championship match in two years, when Durham play Lancashire at Stanley Park, Blackpool, from May 17.

After opting out of the T20 World Cup in North America, Stokes, captain of England in Test cricket, will begin his preparation for three Test matches against each of the West Indies and Sri Lanka in the summer of 2024.

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Before the first Test, at Lord’s from July 10, he will get a maximum of four County Championship matches, against Somerset (home), Essex (away), and Worcestershire (home).

“Suddenly there’s just this air of excitement around the place just when he [Stokes] walks in the room,” Durham head coach Ryan Campbell told BBC Radio Newcastle. “You want to play against the best players in the world. But to have one of those in our own team, to show us the way, his experiences, it’s unbelievable.”

It will be interesting to see if James Anderson, set to retire after the same Lord’s Test match, features in that game for Lancashire. Anderson has not played in this summer’s County Championship so far.

Stokes last played a County Championship match in 2022, against Middlesex at Lord’s. He made 15 and a duck but claimed 4-72 in the first innings. From 73 Championship matches, all for Durham, he has 6,316 runs at 35.48 and 171 wickets at 27.79.

Stokes’s bowling will be under scrutiny. He bowled 29 overs in first-class cricket in the entire summer of 2023 (and took 3-89), while he returned 5-1-17-1 from the five Test matches in India earlier this year. The County Championship matches are likely to indicate whether he is ready to bowl in the home Tests this summer.