In one other world, Ben Stokes was as a result of be enjoying golf this week.
When he was nonetheless a former member of England’s one-day crew, Stokes was scheduled to be a part of the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, starting on Thursday.
As an alternative, together with his one-day retirement over, Stokes was teeing off on the New Zealand bowling assault, smashing 182 to interrupt the document for the very best rating by an England batter in an ODI.
“I used to be a bit bitter about that,” stated Stokes of lacking the PGA. “I mainly performed golf at present, so I used to be alright.”
Beneath the stands at The Oval, Stokes was sitting in the identical sports activities corridor the place lower than two months in the past he had swerved a pack of journalists over his plans for the months following the Ashes.
The day earlier than the ultimate Check in opposition to Australia, Stokes stated he was not going to make himself obtainable for the World Cup and would as an alternative be utilizing the time to repair his left knee.
It was all a ruse. Even then, Stokes knew the wheels have been in movement for his 50-over comeback in time for the defence of England’s world title in India in October and November.
There was no trace of the deception, maybe unsurprising when you think about the ice-cold execution of high-stakes run chases within the 50-over and 20-over World Cup finals of 2019 and 2022 respectively, or the chips-all-in Ashes heroics at Headingley. Stokes’ poker face was excellent.
“It was, wasn’t it?” he stated. “I might been requested loads about my knee over an extended time frame. I knew that I might be enjoying in these video games and probably the World Cup. I stated that to place you all off the radar.”
The troublesome knee means England have to just accept Stokes as a batter, reasonably than an all-action all-rounder.
However his spectacular hitting at The Oval was affirmation, if it was wanted, of why captain Jos Buttler desires Stokes in India.
And maybe the only concentrate on his batting, reasonably than being preoccupied with getting his knee in a spot from the place he can carry out a job as a bowler, makes Stokes an much more harmful prospect than earlier than.
This was solely the tenth time in a 108-match ODI profession that Stokes has occupied the quantity 4 spot within the England batting order. With the additional duty, he produced the second-highest rating by a batter at 4 or decrease within the historical past of males’s ODIs, solely bettered by a legendary 189 not out by the good West Indian Viv Richards in opposition to England at Outdated Trafford in 1984.
“It is the primary time I have been clear in my thoughts that’s the one factor I can concentrate on,” stated Stokes.
“Over the previous 18 months daily has been: ‘Will I bowl? Will I not bowl?’ I do know I can simply concentrate on the batting. That is my factor for the crew now. Having that readability in my head helps.”
That readability helped Stokes make his quickest ODI century, from 76 balls, and first since 2017. He clubbed 15 fours and 9 sixes in his 124-ball keep, serving to England to 368 all out and an eventual victory by 181 runs for a 2-1 sequence lead.
Fittingly, the record-breaking efficiency got here in opposition to New Zealand, the nation of his beginning and the opponents for his most interesting hour in a one-dayer – the man-of-the-match efficiency within the World Cup last 4 years in the past.
There have been even nods to that thrilling day at Lord’s. Again then, an outrageous slice of luck noticed Martin Guptill’s throw from the deep ricochet of Stokes’ bat for 4 overthrows. On Wednesday, one return from Henry Nicholls hit Stokes as he made his floor on the non-striker’s finish.
Within the last, Stokes might have been caught at long-on, just for Trent Boult to tread on the boundary sponge. At The Oval, Boult was in the identical fielding place, this time watching the ball sail over his head for the utmost that took Stokes previous the earlier England greatest, 180 by Jason Roy in opposition to Australia in 2018.
New Zealand might be forgiven for being totally sick of the sight of the person who might have performed in a Black Cap reasonably than with Three Lions on his chest, however coach Gary Stead was gracious sufficient to say he enjoys watching Stokes bat.
“I might reasonably he will get his runs now than on 5 October,” stated Stead, referring to the World Cup opener between the 2 sides in Ahmedabad subsequent month.
It could be wishful pondering each from New Zealand and the remainder of the groups able to do battle in India.
“It is clearly been some time since enjoying this format. It isn’t as simple because it sounds to only come again and begin enjoying once more,” stated Stokes.
“It is simply familiarising myself once more with the ebbs and flows of 50-over cricket and it is one thing I feel I did fairly properly at present.”
Stokes could have made himself obtainable to play one-day internationals, however it was solely by producing a totally ‘Stokesian’ efficiency that he might present he actually had returned.
Now, the entire world is aware of that Ben Stokes is again. For England, which means one other World Cup the place something is feasible.