Wellington: Ben Stokes is set to return to international cricket on Sunday when England play their first one-day international against New Zealand in Hamilton. The star all-rounder, who had been sidelined since his arrest following a nightclub incident last September, rejoined the England squad in New Zealand last week after pleading not guilty in the Bristol magistrates court to a charge of affray. Although England have not yet named their side for the first ODI, and Stokes is short of match practice, captain Eoin Morgan suggested Saturday he would be in the line-up.
“He looks in great nick, he’s hit the ground running since he’s been involved and he’s been himself, which is great to see,” Morgan said. “He might be better for the more games he does play and feel more comfortable coming back … it is his first game in quite a long time.”Stokes has had long net sessions since his arrival and was said to be middling the ball well with the bat and bowling at maximum effort. Along with Stokes, Joe Root, Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes and Jonny Bairstow are also back in the England squad after missing the recent tri-nations Twenty20 series in which Australia beat New Zealand in the final. New Zealand have won just one of their last seven Twenty20 matches and only edged England out of the final on the strength of a superior run rate, and will be looking to turn their fortunes with the change of format.
“It’s a different group this one-day squad. We’ve played some good one-day cricket,” said coach Mike Hesson with the home side having enjoyed a golden run in recent months with a 3-0 ODI series win against the West Indies and beating Pakistan 5-0. But Hesson said his side knows they will have to be at their best to match England. “They (England) are aggressive from ball one with the bat. That in itself means we’ve got to keep taking wickets. “Their whole (batting) order from one to nine keep coming hard out and obviously Ben (Stokes) is one of those. We can’t only focus on one player because they’ve got plenty of good ones.”
Morgan believed that how England adapted to New Zealand conditions would be crucial to the outcome of the five-match series. “They’ve been on a run, have got a good well-balanced side and play extremely well at home,” he said. “I mentioned before we bowled a ball in Australia that these two series we were going to play have the potential to expose some of the weaknesses of our side. “We’ve got to be open to learning and improving on those weaknesses as we go along. Australia was a tough series and New Zealand are going to be no different.”
Morgan felt England’s ODI batting had taken “a backward step” in Australia while their bowling had strengthened in the past year. “You can win a lot of games certainly with the bat, but restricting how many you chase down or controlling a game with the ball is so powerful.”