England all-rounder Ben Stokes is highly unlikely to feature in The Ashes squad in December after having a second operation on his broken left index finger.
Stokes sustained the injury while playing in the Indian Premier League in April but returned to action with Durham in June.
The 30-year-old also played through the pain barrier in July to captain a second-string ODI side to a series whitewash over visiting Pakistan after an initial coronavirus outbreak ruled out the majority of the regular squad.
However, before the India Test series later that month, Stokes announced he would take a break from cricket to protect his mental wellbeing and to allow his finger to fully recover.
On Thursday, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) provided another update on the all-rounder's injury progress.
"England all-rounder Ben Stokes has undergone a second operation on Monday 4th October to address ongoing issues with the finger that he injured in the IPL in April," the statement said.
"Stokes had two screws and scar tissue removed from the index finger of his left hand.
"He will now undergo an intensive period of rehabilitation for the next four weeks under the supervision of the ECB's medical team."
Stokes is already set to miss the T20 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates and Oman, which starts on October 17, but the operation puts further doubt on his return in time for The Ashes.
His presence with the touring party in Australia – who will host England if agreements on coronavirus-related bubble issues can be agreed – was already doubtful but the operation makes the likelihood of an appearance even slimmer.
The all-rounder will be sorely missed by Chris Silverwood's tourists if so, with Stokes averaging 38.37 against Australia, whom he scored 135 not out against in one of cricket's most famous knocks at Headingley in 2019.