NASSER HUSSAIN: Ben Stokes shows he was right not to go home

NASSER HUSSAIN: Ben Stokes shows he was right not to go home for knee op with another ODI century and help England take a big step towards qualification for Champions Trophy

  • England FINALLY claimed a second win at World Cup by beating Netherlands
  • Ben Stokes scored a superb century in 160-run victory on Wednesday
  • AADAM PATEL: It feels as if the captaincy is weighing down Jos Buttler 

Some claimed Ben Stokes shouldn’t have been playing in this match, because England’s elimination from the tournament presented an opportunity to get his knee operated on earlier than scheduled.

But it was a balancing act. Remember, he took someone’s place when he agreed to come out of one-day retirement, and so he naturally wanted to be faithful to the decision to play at the World Cup by seeing this through to the end, not disappear home, leaving his team behind when there was a Champions Trophy slot up for grabs. He isn’t that kind of bloke.

Equally, while this performance showed why he needed to stay, to a degree it highlighted why he needs to get that knee sorted — because the Test team ideally need this once-in-a-generation cricketer as an all-rounder when they return to India in early 2024.

If you think the World Cup has been tricky, those five Tests are going to be more of a challenge. England will need their influential captain to be somewhere near full fitness so he is able to bat to his best at the very least. Fingers crossed he will come back post-surgery able to bowl, but England will desperately need him back any which way.

Staying in India allowed him to hit another ODI hundred and the England team to do all they could in a situation of adversity — win the match in front of them. No, it was not in a semi-final at Mumbai or Kolkata, which is what Jos Buttler and his side were expecting when they boarded the plane out of London in September.

Ben Stokes scored a superb century for England in 160-run victory over the Netherlands

Stokes, who has been nursing a knee injury, decided to stay on at World Cup

At this stage they would have envisaged working out which of the two last-four games they were in. They are not in either and the only thing they can do now is try to achieve their new target of finishing in the top eight and qualifying for that Champions Trophy.

After losing five on the bounce, this wasn’t about trying to put in the complete, perfect performance. There aren’t enough players in good nick in that dressing room to be able to do that. It was about winning the game, getting off the bottom of the table and thinking about the points and improved run rate needed to leapfrog the Dutch, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in the standings.

After another wobble in the middle overs with the bat, it took a Stokes special, alongside a very able partner in Chris Woakes, to pull them out of trouble.

There are not many cricketers who can flick a switch like Stokes does. Once he gets going, he’s almost unstoppable. The only time he hasn’t quite got it right in this tournament was against India when kept on nought by Mohammad Shami, and he had a bit of a hack. Ninety-nine per cent of the time he gets it right, though, and England were thankful he was in their ranks.

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