In another world, Ben Stokes had a different plan for this week. He was scheduled to participate in the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, starting on Thursday, as a former member of England’s one-day team. However, instead of playing golf, Stokes made a comeback in one-day cricket and delivered a remarkable performance against New Zealand, scoring 182 runs and breaking the record for the highest score by an England batsman in an ODI.
Stokes expressed his disappointment about missing the golf tournament, jokingly stating that he was essentially playing golf during his cricket match. Just a couple of months ago, Stokes had announced his retirement from one-day cricket and declared his intentions to focus on treating his left knee after the Ashes series. Little did anyone know that it was all a ruse.
Stokes had always known that he would make a comeback in time for England’s world title defense in India. His seemingly calm and collected demeanor during interviews hinted at no deception, much like his heroics in the 2019 and 2022 World Cup finals. Stokes admitted that he intentionally misled everyone by talking about his knee injury to distract from his plans of playing cricket.
The Oval match against New Zealand solidified Stokes’ position as a vital batsman for England. Freed from the burden of bowling due to his knee, Stokes proved to be an even more dangerous prospect as a batsman. This was only the 10th time in his 108 ODI matches that he occupied the number four spot in England’s batting line-up. Taking on more responsibility, Stokes became the second-highest scorer in men’s ODI history, surpassing all expectations.
Stokes credited his newfound clarity on focusing solely on his batting for his incredible performance at The Oval. This allowed him to score his fastest ODI century since 2017 in just 76 balls. His 124-ball stay included 15 fours and nine sixes, guiding England to a total of 368 runs and ultimately winning the series 2-1. The fact that this record-breaking achievement occurred against his native New Zealand made it all the more special.
There were echoes of Stokes’ heroic performance in the World Cup final four years ago and his memorable display at Lord’s. His luck seemed to have returned as well, with fortuitous bounces and missed catches. Stokes’ performance undoubtedly impressed even the New Zealand coach, Gary Stead, who graciously admitted to enjoying watching him bat.
Stokes’ comeback in one-day cricket has not been an easy process, but he has proven that he is truly back with an extraordinary performance. Now, the entire world knows that Ben Stokes is back and ready for another World Cup with England, where anything is possible.