Stokes brought down to earth but England's batting fires

What a great leveller this game can be.

A few days after becoming the most expensive overseas player in the IPL’s history, Ben Stokes saw his only complete over of England’s first warm-up match in St Kitts thrashed for 23 by a 20-year-old playing only his eighth List A game.

To be fair to Stokes, who had earlier made a half-century, the 20-year-old is some talent. Shimron Hetmyer, the former captain of the West Indies side that won the Under-19 World Cup, timed the ball beautifully and, having clipped Stokes’ first ball for six over square leg, laced a couple of boundaries through the off side before finishing the over with a pull over mid-wicket for another six. Two wides and a no-ball completed the picture and meant that, at that stage, Stokes’ last 10 deliveries in an England shirt against Caribbean opposition – going back to Carlos Braithwaite’s four sixes – had cost an eye-watering 47 runs.

Under normal circumstances, none of this would warrant much attention. Even the best endure bad days, after all, and warm-up days like this exist to help brush off the rust. All recent evidence suggests that, come the big occasion, Stokes will be the man England rely upon.

But coming, as it did, a few days after Stokes’ auction success, it demonstrated the pressure that he will be under every time he steps on to a pitch these days. He can no longer be considered a promising allrounder in the developmental stage of his career; he is a world star whose every move will be studied and followed. There will always be great expectation; there will always be scrutiny. His life has changed and it may not all be for the better.

Still, with four of their top five making half-centuries and a final victory margin of 117 runs, Stokes’ tough over was a minor blip in a generally satisfactory day for England.

It showed how far they had come since they last visited St Kitts. At that time, less than two years ago, they were still reeling in the aftermath of their wretched 2015 World Cup performance. During their match against a St Kitts Invitational XI, it was announced that Paul Downton, the managing director of the England teams, had been sacked and the coaching staff were informed, ominously as it transpired, there would be no further changes “while they were on tour.” Peter Moores was subsequently sacked the moment England returned.

They are a much-changed white ball side now. It’s not just the personnel that is different, though the absence of the top run-scorer and wicket-taker in their ODI history (Ian Bell and James Anderson respectively) is notable, but that the mentality has changed. Remarkably, given how poorly they performed in the most recent global ODI event, several bookies make them favourites for the Champions Trophy to be played in June. It seemed unthinkable in April 2015. Read more

Source: ESPN Cricinfo