Chris Woakes says Ben Stokes’ record 182 gave England a timely reminder of what they can achieve with his “superhuman” skills.
Stokes was in rampant form against New Zealand on Wednesday, notching up the highest individual ODI score for his country in just his third innings since coming out of his year-long retirement from the format.
With England’s World Cup defense less than three weeks away, it was a perfect way for the man who led them to victory in the 2019 final to prove his sense of occasion once again.
Stokes had nothing left to prove on the big stage, but watching him bully England’s early World Cup opponents with nine sixes and 15 fours sent a wave of energy through the dressing room.
England went on to win by a huge margin of 181 runs, another reminder that when he’s in the team, the whole team walks a little taller.
“Obviously we see Ben as this superhuman who can do amazing things. We know he can,” said Woakes, who picked up the baton with three early wickets in the field.
“It’s been great for the group and great for Ben too. He’s an unbelievable cricketer but coming back to the team after his retirement will boost his confidence.”
He added: “We always have doubts and worries about performance at the best of times, so this is great for his confidence and great for the team’s confidence and belief in our ability to score huge goals.”
“It was great to be here and play in the game because that was an amazing strike.
“He hit it cleaner than anyone else. It shows how good of a player he is.”
Since stepping away from 50-over cricket last summer due to workload issues, Stokes has poured his energies into his role as Test captain.
Working closely with head coach Brendon McCullum, he revitalized the red-ball line-up, turned their fortunes around in dramatic fashion and played a thrilling Ashes series that gripped the nation.
Woakes feels that returning to the ranks under Jos Buttler, and acting as a specialist batsman rather than an all-rounder, is a good thing for Stokes.
“I think being back in this team is probably a refreshing feeling for him, without the captaincy on his shoulders. Managing the England Test team is a tough job,” he said.
“Maybe he saw this as a breath of fresh air, to play his natural game and be a normal person, which he always does.
“This group of players who have been in this team for a long time, they always feel comfortable when we come back together.”
England’s World Cup side have one more game together before departing for India, concluding their clash with the Black Caps at Lord’s on Friday.
There is hope that Jason Roy and Mark Wood will be ready for selection, as both have missed the last three matches. Roy has been grounded twice with back spasms and Wood has been kept in a lumbar well since ending the Ashes with a heel problem.
Roy, in particular, will be keen to feel the bat on the ball. Dawid Malan hit an opening 96 on Wednesday to position himself as a viable alternative and Harry Brook continues to remain a potential replacement if Roy’s fitness continues to raise questions.
“I think he’s optimistic. As we get closer to the World Cup, it’s a bit of a risk to put him in a game when you’re not sure how things are going to go,” Wax said.
“Hello, he’s fine. I’m sure he wants out of there and I’m sure he’s frustrated too,” he added.
He added: “Before the World Cup, you want to get a bit of fitness behind you and play as many matches as possible, but he has a flexible character, the players have rallied around him and I am sure he will be fine.”
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England’s fourth ODI against New Zealand is broadcast live on Sky Sports Cricket from 12pm on Friday (first ball at 12.30pm).