Stokes spared fi­nal over exam but he earns re­demp­tion

John Stern dis­cov­ers that the Eng­land all­rounder is still look­ing for im­prove­ments de­spite his suc­cess in Kolkata

The Cricket Paper - - ODI SERIES -

Ben Stokes had re­tained his sense of hu­mour.“I put it down to good cap­taincy from Morgy – to get my overs out of the way first,” he joked with Star TV’s Ravi Shas­tri im­me­di­ately af­ter this pul­sat­ing five-run win for Eng­land.

This was a re­demp­tion tale for Stokes, back at Eden Gar­dens for the first time since Car­los Brath­waite made his bowl­ing dis­ap­pear into the black sky of Kolkata in the fi­nal over of the World T20 fi­nal in April last year.

The Durham all-rounder did not want re­mind­ing of the sym­bol­ism of his re­turn and his sub­se­quent man-of-the-match per­for­mance but he un­der­stood it nonethe­less. “It was a dif­fi­cult time last year,” he said. “There’s been a bit of ban­ter fly­ing around. It was nice to come back and get rid of some of the mem­o­ries.”

It was prob­a­bly a good thing he did not bowl the last over given the way that Kedar Jad­hav, a real find for In­dia in this se­ries, treated the first two balls from Chris Woakes, the man given that cru­cial ‘death over’ re­spon­si­bil­ity.

Stokes was bru­tally hon­est af­ter­wards. While the likes of Eoin Mor­gan and Vi­rat Kohli queued up to sing his praises, Stokes ad­mit­ted: “It’s nice to per­form de­cently out here in In­dian con­di­tions but there are still im­prove­ments I would like to make.

“I’m still very ex­pen­sive. Work­ing on con­sis­tency. Any sight of a bad ball, the world’s top play­ers will pun­ish you.”

He is not alone. While Eng­land’s bats­men are the fastest scor­ers in the world in the 50-over game since the start of 2016 (6.32 runs per over), their bowlers are the most ex­pen­sive (con­ced­ing 5.86 runs per over) of all the ma­jor na­tions with only Ire­land a touch more ex­pen­sive.

Eng­land coach Trevor Bayliss re­mains con­cerned about the in­con­sis­tency of his bowlers.

“Our bowl­ing in all three games was a lit­tle bit dis­ap­point­ing,” he said. “If we’d got the ball in the right ar­eas more of­ten, the re­sults could have been dif­fer­ent. But that’s what hap­pens when you’re un­der pres­sure from a very good team.”

With the ICC Cham­pi­ons Tro­phy still five months away, Bayliss was not rul­ing out re­calls for Stu­art Broad, Steven Finn or Mark Wood, if the lat­ter re­cov­ers from in­jury in time.

In his 50th ODI for Eng­land, Stokes showed again what a game-changer he is, with bat and ball. He got rid of Kohli, who took his all-for­mat winter tally against Eng­land to 840 runs, with a bit of ex­tra pace and width. The In­dian cap­tain’s flash­ing drive was nicked be­hind to Jos Buttler.

He also ended the partnership that threat­ened to win the game for In­dia. Jard­hav and Hardik Pandya had put on 104 in 83 balls for the sixth wicket be­fore Stokes blasted a full-length ball through Pandya’s de­fence and sent him on his way for 56.

Ear­lier, Eng­land’s in­nings fol­lowed a sim­i­lar pat­tern to the first two matches of the se­ries in that it needed a la­te­order turbo-charge to push the score on past the magic 300 mark.

Stokes pro­vided pre­cisely that with 57 from 39 balls, in­clud­ing a cou­ple of straight sixes off Ravi Ash­win – the first ball he faced from the spin­ner – and Bhu­vnesh­war Ku­mar. It was the sixth time he had passed 50 in his last eight one-day in­nings for Eng­land.

“He has more in the tank,” said Mor­gan af­ter­wards. “He’s an in­cred­i­ble player – a lux­ury – to have in your team. He gives you ev­ery­thing he has ev­ery time he plays and we don’t take that for granted.”

Kohli added: “I felt bad for him in the fi­nal, I saw the sad­ness on his face. He takes a lot of pride in his cricket and is very proud to play for Eng­land.

“He has great char­ac­ter and ev­ery side is pleased to have crick­eters like that. I’m sure it feels nice to have turned the ta­bles on this ground.”

Game-changer: Ben Stokes bowl­ing at Eden Gar­dens

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