England all-rounder Ben Stokes is finally set to return to the national squad. Stokes is highly expected to be selected in England’s first XI for the opening encounter of the five-match against the hosts New Zealand, which will be played on Sunday.
Though England has not announced yet the playing XI, the skipper Eoin Morgan gave a hint on the availability of Stokes for the first ODI. Morgan said, “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. 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,”
Since the last September, Stokes has not represented for the England side due to a charge of affray over a brawl outside a Bristol nightclub. Stokes was arrested for that incident, while he has recently pleaded not guilty in the Bristol Magistrates’ Court.
Without his services, England had lost the Ashes series by 4-0 on the Australian soil while they had won the five-match ODI series against the hosts Australia by the 1-4 margin. Adding this, in the recently ended T20I tri-series against the two hosts Australia and New Zealand, England won only one match but failed to qualify for the final due to the lower run-rate.
Talking about the five-match ODI series, England skipper Morgan mentioned that it will be an important and tough series for his team. The left-hand batsman said, “They’ve been on a run, have got a good well-balanced side and play extremely well at home. 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.”
Talking about the differential importance of the batting and bowling, Morgan quoted, “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.”
On the other hand, New Zealand head coach Mike Hesson is respecting their opponent side before the beginning of the ODI series. Hesson mentioned that England has a long batting line-up and that’s why they can’t focus on one player. He said, “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.”
Also, Hesson is hopeful on his team to perform well in the upcoming ODI series. In the recently concluded T20I tri-series, they only won once out of seven matches. However, Hesson believes that they are a different team in ODIs and that will not affect their game. He said about his team, “It’s a different group, this one-day squad. We’ve played some good one-day cricket.”