ENGLAND’S Cumbrian star Ben Stokes has confirmed he will be ready to bowl when England face South Africa in the first Test at Centurion, which begins on Boxing Day.

Stokes, from Cockermouth, a hot favourite to win the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award in Aberdeen on Sunday evening, was struggling with a knee injury during the recent tour of New Zealand.

The 28-year-old’s workload with the ball against the Kiwis was restricted and he had an MRI scan on his left knee at the end of the series.

Stokes underwent an operation to repair torn cartilage in the same knee in 2016, and he told TalkSport: “I got some scans when we got back to England and there’s nothing really showing up on the MRI scans, which is good news.

“I just need to toughen up, I guess, but it’s all right and it’s just treatment now. I will be fine to bowl [in South Africa].”

Stokes’ fitness will boost the options for an England attack that has already been strengthened by the return of their record Test wicket-taker James Anderson.

Along with fellow fast bowler Mark Wood, Anderson is back in the squad after injury and the pair will compete for places with Stuart Broad, Jofra Archer, Chris Woakes and Sam Curran.

Archer in particular struggled during the tour of New Zealand - having made a major impact during his maiden Test series against Australia - but Stokes says the paceman must be given time to mature at international level.

“When you achieve what he achieved in such a short space of time, you’re expected to do it day in, day out,” Stokes added. “But that’s just impossible.

“He’s 24 years old - he doesn’t have that much experience. He’s still learning how to bowl properly: he’s still learning how to bowl in different conditions.

“So, you’ve got to give him a bit of leeway, understand that he’s still learning the game and still maturing as a player, and not expect him to go out and take 4-50 every innings.”