For anyone wondering why Ben Stokes is in the England T20 squad, you now know.
Most of the time, this format is about pushing the envelope, but for Stokes against Sri Lanka, it was about keeping calm and leading his team to a nervy victory with the bat. He started again.
Three years ago he did it at Lord’s and Leeds, first in the 50 World Cup final against New Zealand and then in the third Ashes Test against Australia. In Sydney on Saturday, he did it again. Keeping your head like others have lost theirs.
There’s probably a poem in there somewhere…
Final Draw Group 1
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Promoted to No 3 after regular starter Dawid Malan pulled his groin on the pitch, Stokes actually came to the crease with England flying 75-1 two-ball in the eighth in a 142 chase to clinch a place in the semi-finals and eliminate big rivals Australia.
They were flying – but then they faded.
Stokes looked the other way as Alex Hales – who had hammered a quick half-century stance with Jos Buttler before Stokes came on – brought home a sweeping attempt into the hands of Wanindu Hasaranga, before Harry Brook, Liam Livingstone and Moeen Ali were guilty of tame single-digit layoffs.
While the requirement when Stokes went out was 67 from 76 deliveries with nine wickets in hand, it was now 31 from 33 with just five in hand, including Malan, who probably wouldn’t have been able to run very fast if he had was needed to beat.
And running fast was a key part of Stokes’ saving act. He only hit two limits in his unbeaten 42 from 36 deliveries – one in the 11th and another early in the 16th – but turned those into two quickly romped while picking up a glut of singles in late alliances with Sam Curran and Chris Woakes as England creaked home with two balls to spare.
England have plenty of players who can cross the border – Phil Salt is one of them and can now get a gig in Thursday’s semi-final in Adelaide if Malan’s injury is serious – but few, if any. , have Stokes thought process under pressure and pure bloody mind.
Scores of two, six and eight in his first three rounds of the T20 World Cup, after totals of nine, seven and 17 not in the bilateral series against Australia, led some to wonder what the role was of Stokes in this England team. Now it has become clear. He is the crisis man.
Morgan told sky sports then: “The closer you get to the commercial end of the tournament, the closer you get to lifting this trophy, you want calm heads who make good decisions.
“I remember [England rugby union coach] Eddie Jones told me years ago about playing under pressure and he talked about getting five yards from the try line with two minutes to go. Who do you want to make this decision? People with clear and calm heads.
“Stokes has shown that in abundance [against Sri Lanka]. He’ll be a guy who, as we get to the semi-finals, maybe the final, will play a bigger role no matter where he beats. Being near him will calm others down. He did it by doing, not talking. England would have been short without him.”
Michael Atherton, Morgan’s former England captain, said of Stokes: “He’s done it as well as anyone in this team time and time again.
“I think it’s a combination of the clear thinking that Eoin was talking about but also that competitive spirit. The ‘I’m going to win, I’m not going to be beaten’. There are sports people who just have that extra gear in situations like that and he is one.”
English skipper Buttler added: “Situations like this are what he’s made for and I’m glad he’s in the crease. It gives you a sense of calm. He’s a real competitor and getting to this stage of the competition is the ‘place where you will see it grow and grow.’
India are likely to be next for England on Thursday – that game will be approved if Rohit Sharma’s side beat Zimbabwe on Sunday and finish top of Group 2.
No matter who takes on England, they just hope their batters can replicate Stokes’ composure and produce less of the chaotic stuff that threatened to dash their hopes of reaching the knockout stages before their all-around star does what does best at the end of a race. hunt.
Watch England’s T20 World Cup semi-final live on Sky Sports Cricket on Thursday. A one-hour buildup begins at 7am before an 8am start at Adelaide Oval.
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