BEN Stokes is all set to play for Canterbury Kings in New Zealand while his England team-mates are contesting the second Ashes Test in Adelaide this weekend.

The all-rounder surprised the cricketing world again when he took an unannounced flight on Monday night from Heathrow to his native Christchurch, amid initial reports he was simply visiting his extended family.

Stokes is still waiting to hear if he will be charged with causing actual bodily harm after being arrested during a late-night fracas in Bristol in September.

But it has been learned that he was granted a no objection certificate last week by the England and Wales Cricket Board to play domestic cricket anywhere he chooses.

Whether England management were aware then of the 26-year-old match-winner's plans to sign for Christchurch-based Canterbury remains unclear.

There were already indications from the ECB that Stokes will be free to play for the Kings against Otago Volts in the Ford Trophy 50-over competition on Sunday, by the time his prospective New Zealand employers issued a statement.

The Canterbury Cricket Association release read: "Following the recent speculation surrounding Ben Stokes coming to New Zealand, Canterbury Cricket can now confirm that they have been in initial informal discussions with Ben Stokes' representatives regarding his potential availability for Ford Trophy and Burger King Super Smash competitions."

Chief executive Jeremy Curwin added: "The CCA Board and New Zealand Cricket will independently be considering this issue in the near future – but until then, we are unable to provide any more detail on the status of the deliberations."

Stokes was originally picked in England's Ashes squad but then left at home, unavailable for international selection pending first the decision of Avon & Somerset Police whether to charge him and then the deliberations of a Cricket Discipline Commission (CDC) under the auspices of the ECB.

So far, he has missed three tour matches and the first-Test defeat by ten wickets – during which the consequences of his absence for Joe Root's tourists were painfully plain to see.

England may yet be able to fast-track him back into their plans in Australia, if there were to be no criminal charge, but if so they will have to tread a fine line between expediency and propriety.

The ECB are still unaware of any impending police decision but, once there is one, have a contingency in place to convene a board meeting within 48 hours before the CDC takes place.

ECB director Andrew Strauss was asked in a briefing on Monday if there was any update on police inquiries and he said: "We've had no information from them.

"We're waiting for the police to make a charging decision and until that happens, nothing has changed. We're in the same situation as we have been for quite a long time now."

On the subject of whether the CDC have yet held any preliminary discussions, Strauss added: "There are certain procedural things that have taken place but there is a process that can only kick in once we've heard a charging decision from the police."

In the meantime, geographically at least, Stokes has moved closer to Ashes contention.

Yet his progress does not yet appear to be spooking the opposition too much. Australia coach Darren Lehmann suggested three times at an Adelaide airport press conference that those asking questions about Stokes should direct their queries to the ECB.