Stokes’ Star Power Can Drive England on in New Zealand
The return of Ben Stokes did not propel England to victory over New Zealand in the opening ODI of the series, but he hit the ground to suggest he will have a big role to play over the next five weeks.
England head to the Bay Oval in Mount Maunganui for the second ODI of the series on Wednesday and Eoin Morgan will be desperate for his side to level things up. Stokes will be at the head of the charge.
He looked a little rusty with the bat in the first ODI in Hamilton, as he made a scratchy 12 before falling to the spin of Mitchell Santner. But with the ball and in the field, the Durham man looked sharp.
He took an excellent catch to remove Martin Guptill and returned figures of two for 43 with the ball. His two wickets, Tom Latham and Colin de Grondholme, came at a time when England was staring down the barrel of a chastening defeat. England did not get the job done, the brilliant late-order hitting of Santner saw to that, but Stokes showed what an inspiration he can be to the side.
“Ben bowled the quickest of the lot,” England vice-captain Jos Buttler told the BBC. “He hit the gloves hard. We saw in the nets he was generating good pace.
“It is fantastic to have him back in all three facets of the game.”
After the best part of five months out of the game, Stokes had every right to be a little rusty and he can only improve as the New Zealand tour progresses.
With another four ODIs and two Tests, Stokes has plenty of cricket to get his eye in ahead of the English summer that will see Pakistan, Australia and India face England.
But with snow currently hammering down in England, the focus is on the New Zealand leg of their winter tour. Defeat at the weekend in the opening ODI came as a surprise, given how impressive England had been against Australia in the 50-over format.
Fine margins tipped the balance in New Zealand’s favour, with some sloppiness in the field from England, excellent death bowling by the hosts and ferocious late hitting from Santner tipping it New Zealand’s way.
With England hopefully able to recall Mark Wood who missed the first game with an ankle problem, Morgan’s men have the class to level the series.
England are slight favourites, with 188BET chalking Morgan’s men up at 1.73 – with New Zealand priced at 2.07.
There won’t be a huge amount between the two as New Zealand has excellent options with bat and ball and are extremely well drilled.
But the X-Factor that the likes of Stokes, Buttler and Joe Root provide can tip the balance in England’s favour.