Stokes full of emotion after regaining his talisman role
Ben Stokes has spoken of his relief and happiness after producing what he described as an "emotional" man-of-the-match display to inspire England to victory in the second ODI against New Zealand.
The all-rounder made his first appearance for his country in five months during Sunday's three-wicket defeat in the series opener in Hamilton. But England have now levelled the series at 1-1 with three to play after Stokes took two wickets, played a part in two run outs and top scored with an unbeaten 63 to help his team chase down 224 with 73 balls to spare at the Bay Oval.
He missed the Ashes after he was suspended by the England & Wales Cricket Board for his part in a late-night incident in Bristol last September that saw him charged with affray.
Stokes is facing a trial later this year after pleading not guilty in his first court appearance the day before he flew out for this tour.
But after so long out he is finding comfort in doing what he does best - winning cricket matches for his country.
"It was very satisfying for me," he said in his first interview since being brought back into the fold. "I was quite emotional walking off there at the end.
"Even walking on the field for the first time and walking off tonight made me understand how much of a privilege it is to represent your country. It was a different feeling to what it is normally but it was a great feeling to be walking off there.
"I've been working hard at home making sure that when the opportunity came again to represent England I wasn't going to let anyone down.
"There was relief, happiness and it's been a long time. Hopefully now this is a stepping stone on the road to trying to keep on helping England win.
"We've got a massive summer ahead and the World Cup after that so hopefully this is just the start of it."
Watching the Ashes from afar was particularly hard for Stokes, especially as England were beaten 4-0 by Australia.
"I've been following all the cricket that the lads have been playing but what I have to do now is focus on going forward," he said. "It was frustrating to watch the Ashes. I went through all the emotions as I would have done playing but there's not a lot I can change about that now.
"We've got a massive summer coming up. I just want to contribute towards that."
This was a victory forged on the back of a ruthless display in the field from England.
The final-over loss in Hamilton last Sunday hurt a group of players who had previously experienced only three ODI defeats over the past year.
There was no question at all where that series opener had been lost - the collective effort in the field fell below the standard set by coach Trevor Bayliss.
This was some reply. As well as three spectacular catches - two from Jason Roy and another from David Willey - there were four run outs. Not since 1998 against Australia at The Oval had England managed as many in one-day cricket.
A frustration was the unbeaten 63 from Mitchell Santner that helped their opponents post a total above 200 after they had been 82 for five and 147 for eight.
However, England were always in control, even when they lost Roy and Joe Root early on.
Jonny Bairstow also fell to leave his team 86 for three in the 16th over, his dismissal bringing Stokes to the crease.
Alongside Eoin Morgan, the all-rounder took this game away from New Zealand, the pair's fourth-wicket partnership worth 88 by the time England's captain was caught and bowled by Colin Munro on 62.
Stokes led England home with ease alongside Jos Buttler.