Daily Mail

Stokes shows he was right not to go home

- By Nasser Hussain in Pune

SOME claimed Ben Stokes shouldn’t have been playing in this match, because England’s eliminatio­n from the tournament presented an opportunit­y to get his knee operated on earlier than scheduled.

But it was a balancing act. Remember, he took someone’s place when he agreed to come out of one-day retirement, and so he naturally wanted to be faithful to the decision to play at the World Cup by seeing this through to the end, not disappear home, leaving his team behind when there was a Champions Trophy slot up for grabs. He isn’t that kind of bloke.

Equally, while this performanc­e showed why he needed to stay, to a degree it highlighte­d why he needs to get that knee sorted — because the Test team ideally need this once-in-a-generation cricketer as an all-rounder when they return to India in early 2024.

If you think the World Cup has been tricky, those five Tests are going to be more of a challenge. England will need their influentia­l captain to be somewhere near full fitness so he is able to bat to his best at the very least. Fingers crossed he will come back post- surgery able to bowl, but England will desperatel­y need him back any which way.

Staying in India allowed him to hit another ODI hundred and the England team to do all they could in a situation of adversity — win the match in front of them. No, it was not in a semi-final at Mumbai or Kolkata, which is what Jos Buttler and his side were expecting when they boarded the plane out of London in September.

At this stage they would have envisaged working out which of the two last-four games they were in. They are not in either and the only thing they can do now is try to achieve their new target of finishing in the top eight and qualifying for that Champions Trophy.

After losing five on the bounce, this wasn’t about trying to put in the complete, perfect performanc­e. There aren’t enough players in good nick in that dressing room to be able to do that. It was about winning the game, getting off the bottom of the table and thinking about the points and improved run rate needed to leapfrog the Dutch, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in the standings.

After another wobble in the middle overs with the bat, it took a Stokes special, alongside a very able partner in Chris Woakes, to pull them out of trouble.

There are not many cricketers who can flick a switch like Stokes does. Once he gets going, he’s almost unstoppabl­e. The only time he hasn’t quite got it right in this tournament was against India when kept on nought by Mohammad Shami, and he had a bit of a hack. Ninety-nine per cent of the time he gets it right, though, and England were thankful he was in their ranks yesterday.

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 ?? GETTY IMAGES ?? Rare smile: Buttler
GETTY IMAGES Rare smile: Buttler

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