Ben Stokes back training in the nets amid links over England captaincy

Ben Stokes is favourite to succeed Joe Root as England captain in Test cricket and has been backed by ODI skipper Eoin Morgan.

The all-rounder has stepped up his recovery from a knee injury by bowling in the nets for Durham.

Stokes - who is tipped to replace Joe Root as Test captain - had scans on his knee following the West Indies tour and is now plotting a return to county action in May ahead of the international summer.

The 30-year-old reported back for net practice at Emirates Riverside on Tuesday and has spent the last four days batting outdoors.

Overseen by coach Will Gidman, he faced seamer Matt Salisbury during the lunch break of day two between Durham and Nottinghamshire.

Former England and Wales Cricket Board consultant Neil Killeen - now a fast bowling coach - was in attendance.

It is believed he hit a good pace during an extended spell at batter Graham Clark before signing autographs for a handful of onlookers.

Stokes could play in a maximum of three championship games, at Worcestershire on May 5, at home to Glamorgan a week later and a trip to Lord's to face Middlesex on May 19. Durham are open to him playing as a specialist batter if required, but the initial signs are promising that the all-rounder's comeback is ahead of schedule.

Whether Stokes adds captain to his long list of roles when he returns to England duty remains to be seen, but the matter is sure to be high on the agenda of the newly-appointed managing director of men's cricket Rob Key.

Rob Key has been named England's new managing director of cricket

Key's priority is to have a head coach in place before the first Test of the summer against New Zealand in less than six weeks, but may move earlier in naming Root's replacement.

Writing in his Daily Mirror column on Thursday, Stokes paid tribute to Root before adding: "I know there will be lots of speculation around who will take over from him, and clearly as vice-captain and someone who has stood in on a few occasions my name will be strongly talked about.

"But all I will say is that it is a huge honour to captain England and whoever does it will get to enjoy that responsibility of trying to take the team forward. The decision will be down to Rob Key as the new managing director of men's cricket and I'm sure we'll talk soon enough, as he will with other players and support staff."

Read more: West Indies captain Kieron Pollard retires from international cricket

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