Ben Stokes makes his long awaited return against New Zealand
Ben Stokes’ past few months have been well documented. In September, he was caught on camera in the midst of a substantial fight outside a nightclub in Bristol. He was subsequently charged with assault and suspended from the English Test side, and sat out the entire Ashes series in Australia.
As one of England’s most important players, if not the most important, his absence was felt strongly. England, of course, lost the five test series 4-0, and it is unlikely Stokes would have had a significant enough impact to give them a chance of winning it, but he certainly would have helped.
Stokes was named in the One Day side for the ensuing ODI series against Australia, but didn’t actually play. The police investigation was still pending,
Now, England have made the flight ‘across the ditch’ to New Zealand, and after sitting out the two-game T20 series, he has at last joined the team. He made his return on Sunday, for the first ODI between New Zealand and England at Seddon Park, in Hamilton
How did he go?
Average. Stokes didn’t contribute to anywhere near the level he is capable, but he certainly still reminded the world why he is such a valuable player. England batted first, and Stokes wandered in the 22nd over, with England precariously placed at 3-104.
He scratched around for a few overs, making his way into double figures. That was as far as he got though, as he fell for a trap set by Santner and the Kiwis. Stokes tried to launch one to cow corner of the young orthodox bowler, but instead skied it and was caught in the outfield. He made 12 off 22 balls.
Certainly this wasn’t the result he was after, but as a genuine all-rounder Stokes always has the opportunity to redeem himself in the second innings, and he did that to an extent. He bowled 8 overs, conceding 43 runs and picking up a couple of wickets. Again, not exactly a game-changing performance, but more than useful for a man who is batting at number five. England went on to lose the game in what was a tight finish.
There are four more games in the ODI series, and presumably Stokes will play in all of them. It would be more than understandable for him to show signs of his five months off; it is a substantial break from the game, and no doubt difficult to come back from and immediately perform. His presence, however, makes England a far better team, and if he can contribute to a reasonable percentage of his normal output it will benefit them significantly.
A two test series will follow at the end of March. It is unknown whether he will participate in it, but given his return to the One Day arena, it would certainly be reasonable to suspect he will be up for selection in the test series. And, given his talent, if he is available for selection, expect him to be out there in his whites on March 22.