Ben Stokes hits half-century on return to England ODI side

By Sports Desk September 08, 2023

Ben Stokes marked his ODI return with a resolute fifty as England started the first of four World Cup warm-ups against New Zealand by posting 291 for six at a sultry Sophia Gardens.

Stokes is back in tow as a specialist batter after reversing his 50-over retirement last month ahead of England’s defence of their World Cup crown in India and got back into the groove with 52 off 69 balls.

It was not his most fluent effort but was one of four fifty-plus scores on a tricky pitch after the hosts were asked to bat first, with Dawid Malan contributing 54 off 53 balls before Jos Buttler top-scored with 72 off 68 deliveries.

Liam Livingstone added some impetus with a sparky 52 from 40 balls at the back end of an innings in which left-arm spinner Rachin Ravindra finished with career-best international figures of three for 48.

The knocks of Malan and Livingstone are timely given their places in England’s provisional World Cup squad are thought to be the most vulnerable as Harry Brook makes a late case for selection.

Brook had an opportunity to push his claims after being shunted to open alongside Malan, with England cautious over Jonny Bairstow’s shoulder niggle sustained in the drawn T20 series and Jason Roy waking up on Friday morning with a back spasm that precluded his involvement.

It was his first time opening the batting in List A cricket and he tickled the first ball off his thigh to the boundary but it was Malan who stamped his authority on the union from then on, capitalising on wide or overpitched deliveries to the tune of six fours in the space of 18 deliveries at one point.

Malan was adept on the pull as New Zealand’s quicks dragged back their lengths, dispatching Kyle Jamieson then Lockie Ferguson to bring up a 48-ball half-century – his eighth fifty-plus score in 19 ODI innings.

He was unable to kick on, though, as Ravindra halted England in their tracks after an 80-run opening stand. The slow left-armer was already appealing when Malan missed a clip off his pads and only belatedly noticed the ball spin back and thud into off-stump.

Brook then departed in the next over for a pedestrian 25 off 41 balls as a brute of a bouncer from Ferguson brushed his glove on the way through to New Zealand captain Tom Latham.

Matters might have worsened for England as another sharply rising delivery caught Stokes out first up although the ball ballooned agonisingly over Glenn Phillips at gully.

Joe Root scratched his way to six off 15 balls but top-edged a slog sweep to Daryl Mitchell in the ring to give Ravindra his second wicket.

He conceded just eight runs in four overs before Buttler displayed a rare show of aggression by clattering the spinner over the shorter straight boundary for six.

With bowling all-rounder Chris Woakes at seven, Stokes and Buttler settled for watchful accumulation over outright might.

Buttler was busier and the pair both went to their fifties. But the ball after heaving Ravindra into the stands for his first six to go with three fours, Stokes clubbed to cover to end an 88-run stand.

Ravindra was taken the distance by Buttler while Livingstone upped the ante with three successive sixes off the expensive Jamieson.

Either side of two slower balls being shovelled over the leg-side boundary, Livingstone bludgeoned a pace-on delivery back over Jamieson’s head.

Livingstone and Buttler both miscued Tim Southee slower balls up in the air to end England’s hopes of a 300-plus total but David Willey’s 21 not out off 11 balls got them close.

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