Days after a stellar all-round performance in the World Cup curtain-raiser, Ben Stokes was looking to carry on his and England’s momentum against Pakistan at Trent Bridge.
Stokes allied a highlight-reel catch against South Africa at the Oval by top-scoring in England’s innings with 89 before sealing a 104-run victory with two wickets in as many balls.
Here, Press Association Sport assesses the contribution of the burly Cumbrian in Nottingham.
Eoin Morgan’s decision to invite Pakistan to bat first under blue skies meant all eyes were on Stokes following his one-handed leap on the boundary against the Proteas – a catch that may yet be the memorable moment of the tournament. This time, though, Stokes failed to make an impression as fellow all-rounder Chris Woakes took four catches of varying difficulty. He was also relatively blameless following an uncharacteristically loose display in the field from the tournament hosts – with dropped catches, mis-fields and overthrows aiding Pakistan’s cause.
Stokes was tasked with a disparate role to the one he enjoyed in south London. Having been left alone until South Africa were on the verge of defeat before cleaning up the tail last Thursday, Stokes was introduced in the 18th over in order to try to force a breakthrough or at least stymie the run-rate. Having taken two from two last time out he was unable to complete a moral hat-trick but only conceded one boundary in an opening spell of 5-0-22-0, during which time he troubled Babar Azam. However, as Pakistan looked to cut loose later in the innings, a two-over spell yielded 21 runs and he expressed his frustration by angrily kicking the ball, to heckles from the vocal Pakistan support.
Stokes adopted a pragmatic attitude last week, accepting the necessity to put away the big booming drives early on after England had lost their first three wickets before the 20th over. He came to the crease in the 15th over on Monday and seemed set to take a similarly sensible approach. The high point of his brief stay at the crease was a sumptuous effort through mid-on off Hasan Ali – described as a ‘Rolls Royce shot’ on the BBC’s Test Match Special commentary. However, having moved to 13, he departed in relatively tame fashion. Cramped for room he nevertheless followed through with an attempted cut off part-time off-spinner Shoaib Malik, only for his edge to be well pouched by wicketkeeper Sarfraz Ahmed.
A return of 7-0-43-0, no catches and 13 from 18 deliveries is a significant comedown for Stokes after the elation of his wondrous display in England’s tournament opener. Yet attempting to keep to that standard was always likely to be beyond even the world-class talents of Stokes on the eve of his 28th birthday.