It was a familiar story of Ben Stokes’ heroics as he led England’s attack in the third ODI against New Zealand at The Kia Oval, hitting a record 182 off 124 balls, containing 15 fours and nine sixes.
Stokes steadied the ship after England fell to 13-2, with Jonny Bairstow dismissed for a golden duck, as he flicked Trent Boult straight to square leg, before removing New Zealand fast bowler Joe Root for four.
But along came Stokes, the England Test captain proceeding to make his fastest ODI century off just 76 balls, eventually topping the table of highest individual ODI scores in England men’s cricket, a position previously held by teammate Jason Roy when he made 180 against him. Australia in 2018.
“It’s good to come back after a period of absence and make a big contribution,” Stokes told reporters after the match.
“I think today was good for me personally just for me to get a feel again of how 50-over cricket works.
“We started and lost some quick wickets, but then we put them under pressure. I had to check myself a few times when I looked up and there was still 20 runs to go. You have a lot more time than you think.”
Stokes added: “I didn’t know anything about Jason’s record. He said ‘well done’ and I said ‘sorry’. We’re both not too bothered by things like that.”
England captain Jos Buttler urged his team to be more aggressive and play positively after his team tried to achieve a draw against Southampton.
It was a message clearly embodied in Stokes and Dawid Malan’s third-wicket partnership as the English duo made 199 off 165 deliveries, cementing their places in the World Cup squad in India next month.
“Stokes is an exceptional cricketer, he really is,” he said. Sky Sports Commentator Nasser Hussein.
“People asked if he should come back or not, but it wasn’t easy for me.
“Just because he may not be able to bowl, he’s still one of the best hitters we’ve produced in any format.”
Hussain added: “That’s what happens when you have a team full of senior captains, they have a lot of cricketers who were there before who, before the World Cup, didn’t want to take a step back.
“Stokes wasn’t always batting with four, and one advantage of getting to 13-2 is that he had plenty of time and his judgment was perfect. He always showed power, especially on the leg side.”
“He was breaking records as he always does, and I think New Zealand and other teams should learn from him.”
Stokes’ dismissal finally came when New Zealand fast bowler Ben Lister bowled a full toss and was caught at deep square leg by Will Young.
But his efforts were in abundance as the Oval crowd rose to their feet and Stokes raised his bat to the sky, emerging decked with adulation despite a late collapse that would see England lose their last six wickets for just 32 runs.
“Stokes took the initiative so that others would have the courage to follow his example and trust him,” he said. Sky Sports Commentator Kumar Sangakkara.
“One of his main roles is to inspire and spread the word. He did a fantastic job and England looked off the pace at the start but then they had someone in the top four to really set the tone.
“England have confirmed their position and belief in the way they want to play.”
If Stokes was England’s hero, it was New Zealand’s Boult who handed the ball to the tourists.
The left-arm quick took his sixth ODI five for, also dismissed Malan (96) to deny him his fifth ODI century, and later contributed to England’s collapse by removing Sam Curran (3) and Jos Atkinson (2).
“Bolt has varied his speed and bowled well,” Hussain said.
“He is an exceptional cricketer and he and Stokes have been out of ODI cricket for a while but they have come back strongly.”
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England’s fourth ODI against New Zealand is broadcast live on Sky Sports Cricket from 12pm on Thursday (first ball 12.30pm).