In a parallel universe, Ben Stokes would have been trading his cricket bat for a golf club this week. Originally slated to participate in the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, he was set to enjoy a round of golf, but destiny had other plans. With his one-day international (ODI) retirement behind him, Stokes found himself on the cricket field, taking on New Zealand’s bowling attack with gusto, ultimately smashing an astonishing 182 runs. This not only led England to victory but also shattered the record for the highest score by an England batter in an ODI. As Stokes put it, “I was a bit sour about missing the PGA. I basically played golf today, so I was alright.”
Underneath the stands at The Oval, Stokes reflected on how just a short while ago, he had deftly avoided a pack of journalists probing his post-Ashes plans. He had announced his unavailability for the World Cup, citing the need to mend his left knee. But it was all a clever ruse. Stokes, known for his icy composure in high-pressure situations, had already set the wheels in motion for his 50-over comeback, timed perfectly for England’s World Cup defense in India later this year.
When asked about the deception, Stokes quipped, “It was, wasn’t it? I’d been asked a lot about my knee over a long period of time. I knew that I’d be playing in these games and potentially the World Cup. I said that to put you all off the radar.”
The knee issue means that England must now consider Stokes primarily as a batsman, rather than an all-rounder. But his breathtaking performance at The Oval reaffirmed why captain Jos Buttler is eager to have Stokes in the squad for the World Cup. Freed from the dual responsibility of batting and bowling, Stokes appears even more menacing with the bat in hand.
Surprisingly, this was only the 10th time in Stokes’ 108-match ODI career that he batted at number four for England. With added responsibility, he crafted the second-highest score by a number four or lower batter in the history of men’s ODIs. Only Viv Richards’ legendary 189 not out against England in 1984 surpasses it.
Stokes remarked, “It’s the first time I’ve been clear in my mind that is the one thing I can focus on,” highlighting the relief of not having to constantly ponder his bowling role. This newfound clarity allowed him to notch his fastest ODI century in 76 balls, his first since 2017. He smashed 15 fours and nine sixes during his 124-ball stay, propelling England to a formidable total of 368 and sealing a 2-1 series lead with an eventual victory by 181 runs.
It was poetic that this record-breaking spectacle unfolded against New Zealand, the country of Stokes’ birth and the team he vanquished in the 2019 World Cup final. There were echoes of that iconic match, where a stroke of fortune saw a throw ricochet off Stokes’ bat for four overthrows. On Wednesday, a return throw from Henry Nicholls struck Stokes as he made his ground at the non-striker’s end.
In the final at Lord’s, Stokes had a near-miss when a fielder trod on the boundary rope, preventing a catch. At The Oval, Trent Boult was in a similar fielding position, but this time, he could only watch as the ball sailed over his head, taking Stokes past Jason Roy’s previous England best of 180 against Australia in 2018.
New Zealand might be growing tired of facing Stokes, who could have represented them as a “Black Cap” but chose to don the Three Lions emblem instead. However, coach Gary Stead graciously acknowledged Stokes’ prowess, saying, “I’d rather he gets his runs now than on 5 October,” referring to the World Cup opener between the two sides next month.
Stokes admitted that returning to the 50-over format after a hiatus was not as simple as it might seem. But his performance at The Oval demonstrated his ability to adapt to the ebbs and flows of ODI cricket.
In the end, it was a quintessential “Stokesian” performance that confirmed his return to the ODI arena. With Ben Stokes back in the fold, England’s prospects at the upcoming World Cup just got a whole lot brighter. As his remarkable innings showed, when Ben Stokes is on the field, anything is possible for England.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Cricket Brilliance
Q: What record did Ben Stokes break in his innings mentioned in the text?
A: Ben Stokes broke the record for the highest score by an England batter in an ODI, scoring a remarkable 182 runs.
Q: Why did Ben Stokes initially announce his unavailability for the World Cup?
A: Stokes claimed he needed time to fix his left knee, citing it as the reason for not making himself available for the World Cup.
Q: How did Ben Stokes’ performance at The Oval affect England’s series against New Zealand?
A: Stokes’ spectacular performance at The Oval helped England secure a 2-1 series lead against New Zealand with a commanding victory by 181 runs.
Q: What did Gary Stead, New Zealand’s coach, say about Ben Stokes’ performance?
A: Gary Stead acknowledged Ben Stokes’ brilliance, stating that he would rather see Stokes scoring runs now than in the upcoming World Cup, showing respect for Stokes’ form.
Q: How did Ben Stokes describe his mental clarity regarding his role in the team?
A: Ben Stokes expressed relief at being able to focus solely on his batting role, stating that the clarity in his mind helped him perform exceptionally well in the ODI.
Q: What is the significance of Stokes’ performance against New Zealand in the context of the 2019 World Cup final?
A: The article highlights that Stokes’ record-breaking performance against New Zealand holds significance because it was against the same team that England defeated in the 2019 World Cup final.