BEN STOKES has declared himself “fit and hungry for a big series” ahead of the first Ashes Test.

The Durham all-rounder was not named in the original England squad for the forthcoming series having taken an indefinite break to focus on his mental health and recovery from a fractured finger, but was subsequently added to the group in October.

He then suffered a forearm injury in a net session a few days ago as the squad continued preparations for the first Test against Australia in Brisbane, which starts on December 8 – skipper Joe Root later said of that incident that Stokes “seems to have come through it pretty well”.

A post on Stokes’ official Instagram account yesterday showed him doing some work with bat and ball.

And in an accompanying message, he said: “Don’t call it a comeback. Spent some time testing out the finger with @adidasLondon last month.

“Two months ago, I couldn’t hold a bat. With one week to go till the first Test, I’m fit and hungry for a big series down under!”

Meanwhile, England spinner Jack Leach has indicated that the return of Stokes and presence of Chris Woakes, another all-rounder, gave him some confidence about being selected for the side.

Leach, speaking to reporters after the second day of England’s warm-up match against England Lions was washed out, said: “From the summer, the feedback was that Stokesy not being in the side, not having that all-round option in the top order, kind of made things difficult for me to get in the side.

“So I think having him back is great. Also having Woakes back…both of them back is hopefully positive for being able to fit in a spinner in, for sure.”

Leach and Stokes combined to help England claim a close one-wicket win at Headingley during the drawn Ashes series in 2019.

Leach smiled when asked if he would ever tire of hearing about his unbeaten score of one on that occasion – when Stokes recorded 135 not out.

“I’m not fed up with the one not out – I don’t think I ever will be, but I guess I want to keep performing for England (and) that’s what it comes down to,” he said.

Leach has also spoken about his admiration for Australia’s Nathan Lyon.

“For years I’ve watched Nathan Lyon and he’s very impressive,” Leach said.

“Just how strong his stock ball is, and, on wickets that don’t necessarily offer a lot spin-wise, he’s found ways to extract extra bounce, dip and all the other things.

“They’re the kind of things that I’ve been trying to add in but still sticking to my strengths as well.”

Meanwhile, Manchester United co-chairman Avram Glazer has bought a franchise for a new T20 professional league in the United Arab Emirates, organisers have announced. Glazer, also an owner of Super Bowl winners Tampa Bay Buccaneers, has completed the acquisition in his role as chairman of private equity firm Lancer Capital.