SYDNEY: England cricket chiefs Tuesday said suspended all-rounder Ben Stokes was visiting family in New Zealand and not heading to Australia after he was apparently spotted leaving London's Heathrow airport.
An image that claimed to show him at the airport began doing the rounds on social media late Monday, sparking speculation that he was flying Down Under to take part in the Ashes.
The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) quickly poured cold water on the suggestion.
"The ECB is aware that Ben Stokes is making a private trip to New Zealand to spend time with his family. His travel arrangements have not been arranged by the ECB," it said in a statement. "He is not on his way to the Ashes, England Lions or any other official training camps with the England set-up."
Stokes has been suspended pending the outcome of investigations into a late-night incident in which he appeared to get involved in a fight outside a Bristol nightclub in September.
The controversy rocked England's preparations for the series with former Australia Test captains Steve Waugh and Ian Chappell among those who believe England can't retain the Ashes without him.
Australia won the first Test in Brisbane this week by 10 wickets, with the day-night second Test starting in Adelaide on Saturday.
Stokes moved from New Zealand to England as a child so his father Gerard, a former rugby league international, could take a coaching role.
Both his parents have since moved back to Christchurch.
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