ICC World Cup: Stokes fires again, but will he continue in ODIs?
It’s official now: India vs New Zealand, SA vs Australia in semi-finals
Eden Gardens lived up to it’s reputation once again when a 38,000 strong crowd thronged the terraces for an inconsequential game between the fallen World Cup champions England and Pakistan on Saturday.
Thankfully for them, the Big Three of England batting – Ben Stokes, Jonny Bairstow and Joe Root – came into their own albeit late in the day to hoist their third 300-plus total in the tournament.
A little bit of statistic shows how farcical the challenge was before Pakistan in order to make a dash for the semi-finals – they needed to overhaul England’s total of 337 for nine wickets in 6.4 overs! Needless to say, there was no twist to the script as the battlelines for the semi-finals next week were formally drawn up.
Come Wednesday (November 15), an in-form India takes on New Zealand in the first of the semi-finals in Mumbai. The next day, the City of Joy can brace for a cracker of a contest between five-time champions Australia – on a high after that miraculous win against Afghanistan – take on second placed South Africa. The final is scheduled in Ahmedabad on November 19 with a reserve day.
Speaking to the media on Friday, England opener Dawid Malan – the second oldest member of the team after Moeen Ali at 36 – was candid about an uncertain future for him in country colours. The mood was that it was time for a shake-up, but at least three members of their golden generation showed the decisionmakers at the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) need to think hard before taking any drastic calls.
The most heartening resurgence was that of Ben Stokes (84 off 76 balls), who starred in a mature 132-run partnership with former captain Joe Root (60 off 72) to lay the foundation for a late charge from captain Jos Buttler and Harry Brook.
Bairstow, such a key figure behind England’s white ball success in recent years, also raked up his only second fifty in the tournament.
The talismanic Stokes, who had a second ton in a row beckoning him after a 108 against the Dutch, had come out of retirement from one-dayers to play this World Cup.
The quality Pakistan attack brought out the best in him as he scored at quick clip, before his innings (studded with 11 fours around the wicket and two sixes) was terminated by a fuller one from Shaheen Afridi.
A focal point of interest now would be whether Stokes continues to play in this format – or go back to retirement to manage his workload and prolong his career. ‘’I have no idea. I’m sure there will be a conversation but I don’t know when that will be. I have used the time between games here to give myself a better opportunity after the surgery,’’ Stokes, England’s Test captain, was quoted as saying by Belfast Telegraph.
We will wait and watch!