No tale of re­demp­tion

Eng­land play West Indies in re­peat of World T20 clash with­out fi­nal’s pro­tag­o­nist Stokes

Sport360 - - Cricket | News - By Rory Dol­lard @thervd ed­i­to­

A sell-out Durham crowd will be de­nied a re­match be­tween lo­cal favourite Ben Stokes and his World Twenty20 con­queror Car­los Brath­waite tonight, but Eng­land cap­tain Eoin Mor­gan in­sists rest­ing the all-rounder is the right de­ci­sion.

The county have ex­ceeded ex­pec­ta­tions by fill­ing ev­ery seat in the house for a stan­dalone match that lays bare the lack of con­text be­dev­illing the for­mat at in­ter­na­tional level. Many of the 13,000 flock­ing to Emi­rates River­side must have wanted to wit­ness Stokes re­new T20 hos­til­i­ties with the man who clubbed him for four sixes to win the fi­nal in Kolkata last April but he has in­stead been handed a con­tro­ver­sial, but well-earned, breather.

In stand­ing Stokes down from du­ties at Ch­ester-le-Street, the se­lec­tors have not only scup­pered a grand home­com­ing for a man whose stock, pro­file and wealth have soared since his nadir in Eden Gar­dens but also quashed a com­pelling nar­ra­tive in a con­test cry­ing out for one.

But Mor­gan un­der­stands that the short­est for­mat must play its part in Eng­land’s long game, par­tic­u­larly with an Aus­tralia tour on the hori­zon. “I can see both sides of it, of course guys want to see him play,” he said.

“And if there wasn’t an in­jury risk down the line or a huge Ashes tour com­ing up po­ten­tially he might be able to play. It’s un­for­tu­nate it has to be a game at his home ground but we have to stay strong with the de­ci­sions and the plans we have so down the line we don’t re­gret play­ing him in a one-off game.”

The Dubliner brushed aside sug­ges­tions that Stokes ver­sus Brath­waite rep­re­sented a sem­i­nal mo­ment of sorts, with the pair hav­ing al­ready faced off in 50-over cricket since their most fa­mous meet­ing. “It’s noth­ing to us,” he said. “It’s a long time ago. Ben has ob­vi­ously learned a lot since then, be­come a more se­nior, more ex­pe­ri­enced player since then and he’s bet­ter for the ex­pe­ri­ence.”

Mor­gan thinks vic­tory against West Indies in tonight’s T20 will help his young side im­prove their con­sis­tency. The match at the River­side Ground is the two coun­tries’ only match in the short­est for­mat of the game be­fore the five-match ODI se­ries kicks off next week.

Eng­land won the Test se­ries 2-1 fol­low­ing a some­what sur­pris­ing West Indies’ vic­tory in the sec­ond meet­ing at Head­in­g­ley, but Mor­gan ex­pects a stronger show­ing from the tourists at Ch­ester-le-Street.

“They prob­a­bly have a bit more ex­pe­ri­ence (than their Test squad) which is great. We want to play against the best pos­si­ble side avail­able in or­der to try and im­prove our game,” Mor­gan said.

“We’re a very young side and we have a long way to go in T20 cricket. Our con­sis­tency lev­els have been up and down so it’s all to play for to­mor­row.”

Hard-hit­ting bats­man Chris Gayle is set to re­turn to the West Indies lineup and Mor­gan thinks bat­ting is where their strength lies.

“It’s one of their strengths,” he said of West Indies’ bat­ting. “It’s prob­a­bly one of our strengths as well. It’s go­ing to be a re­ally ex­cit­ing game.”

Tac­ti­cal move: Stokes has been rested with an eye on the Ashes in Novem­ber.

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