Eng­land leave home fans cold by rest­ing lo­cal hero Stokes

River­side crowd de­nied chance to see all-rounder make amends for his part in Kolkata fi­nal heartache

The Guardian - Sport - - Cricket - Stephen Brenk­ley

Some­times, it is pos­si­ble to think that Eng­land’s cricket power bro­kers are hav­ing a laugh at Durham. They give with one hand and take away with the other.

A fi­nan­cial bailout, with the county in eco­nomic melt­down last year, was ac­com­pa­nied by the penalty of swinge­ing points re­duc­tions across all tour­na­ments for the 2017 sea­son. In­ter­na­tional matches con­tinue to be al­lo­cated to the Emi­rates River­side ground but fre­quently at a time of year in the north-east when po­lar ex­pe­di­tion gear is needed to watch them.

The lat­est per­ceived slight for the one-off evening Twenty20 match to be played against West In­dies tonight – tem­per­a­tures are ex­pected to peak at 13C at around 6.30pm and de­cline steadily from there – is the omis­sion of the lo­cal hero, Ben Stokes. It has been deemed by the se­lec­tors that their most pre­cious as­set ur­gently needed a rest and could not be risked in 40 overs of cricket five miles up the road from his home.

Eng­land would seem to want it both ways. The one-day in­ter­na­tional be­tween Eng­land and Aus­tralia at the River­side next June is al­ready be­ing pro­moted. Posters dot­ted around the venue are em­bla­zoned with the im­age of only one crick­eter: Stokes. For that alone, it would be a brave se­lec­tor who dared rest him then, but since he has yet to ap­pear in any in­ter­na­tional match at the ground the prospect should not be ruled out. The se­lec­tors may also point to the fact that all 13,000 tick­ets have al­ready been sold for this T20 match, Stokes or no Stokes.

“I see both sides,” said Eng­land’s lim­ited overs cap­tain, Eoin Mor­gan. “Ben, like Moeen [Ali], has a very long year ahead and has al­ready had a very long sum­mer. Of course, guys want to see him play. 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.” Had Stokes been in­cluded for this soli­tary T20 match it could more per­sua­sively have been mar­keted as Eng­land v Windies: The Re­match. It is al­most 18 months since the sides last met in a T20 in­ter­na­tional, the fi­nal of the World Twenty20 in Eden Gar­dens, Kolkata. West In­dies, hav­ing been ex­pertly con­tained, needed 19 to win from the fi­nal over, bowled by Stokes.

In an ex­tra­or­di­nary cli­max they ac­quired them from four balls. Car­los Brath­waite struck four con­sec­u­tive sixes as Stokes, his agony mul­ti­ply­ing by the ball, tried and re­peat­edly failed to pro­duce an on-the-but­ton yorker – the right area as they have it in the trade. “Ob­vi­ously it’s some­thing I can’t get away from and they even have us play­ing at his home ground,” said Brath­waite, per­haps point­edly. His re­ward was to be im­me­di­ately el­e­vated to West In­dies’ T20 cap­taincy. “It’s some­thing I’ll al­ways be re­minded about but it’s some­thing I try to put to bed and move for­ward with my ca­reer.”

Mor­gan de­clined to name the side that will play from the squad of 14, though he hinted in the broad­est terms that there will be a place for Ja­son Roy, who was dropped from the 50-over side this sum­mer in the fi­nal stages of the Cham­pi­ons Tro­phy. Joe Root, who was rested for the T20 se­ries of three matches against South Africa in June, is on pa­rade.

Ap­par­ently he is not in need of a rest de­spite lead­ing Eng­land in seven Test matches in his first sum­mer as cap­tain. That might mean Jonny Bairstow, who rarely seems to do much wrong, is over­looked once more in the white-ball game.

Af­ter a poor start to Brath­waite’s ten­ure in which they lost six in nine matches, West In­dies have won their past four. To demon­strate the fact they take Twenty20 with deadly se­ri­ous­ness and that it is prob­a­bly the most im­por­tant form of the game for them now, Brath­waite, Su­nil Narine and Kieron Pol­lard have all been sum­moned to Durham. Eng­land look at things dif­fer­ently.

Car­los Brath­waite will cap­tain a strong West In­dies side in Durham while Eng­land look likely to give Ja­son Roy an­other taste of lim­ited-overs ac­tion

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