World T20 2016 March 28, 2016

Stokes admits revelling in 'high-pressure situations'


Ben Stokes - "I'd much rather be doing that last over thing than sitting there watching and hoping whoever bowled it gets us through" © Getty Images

As one ubiquitous wag on social media put it, at the height of Sri Lanka's collapse against England on Saturday, "for a man who's only had two touches, Ben Stokes is having one hell of a game."

Not half. His solitary contribution with the bat had been to spank his first and only delivery, the last of England's innings, over cow corner for six to complete a satisfactory late charge to 171 for 4; his first and most sensational involvement in the field had come at the end of the third over, with Sri Lanka already reeling at 15 for 3.

Angelo Mathews, whose heroics would eventually take England to the brink but who for now was poking his first ball cautiously out to the leg side, half motioned for a single but sent his partner back. Stokes, swooping from mid-on and launching himself at the stumps to under-arm from three yards, pinged off the bails to dispatch Lahiru Thirimanne and put England into a position of such dominance that the host broadcaster's much-mocked and misunderstood "Win Predictor" would soon be declaring their chances of victory were "100%".

The situation did not feel quite so clear-cut, however, by the time Stokes was thrown the ball to complete his final six touches of the match. Though hobbled badly by a hamstring strain, Mathews' magnificence had hauled his team's chase back from the dead, and with 15 runs still required but five sixes to his name already, England knew they were a couple of clean hits from oblivion.

Instead, Stokes responded with the over of his limited-over life. Three pinpoint yorkers, four dot-balls, and one mighty roar of triumph later, he had helped to carry England into the last four with a performance that epitomised the value of a genuine allrounder.

"I was pleased with my whole overall game," Stokes told reporters at the team hotel in Delhi, as they continued their preparations for Wednesday's semi-final against New Zealand.

"I said in an interview afterwards that I'd much rather be doing that last over thing than sitting there watching and hoping whoever bowled it gets us through. I'd rather be the man doing it. It's a lot easier on the nerves.

"It sounds silly to say when you're the person doing it, but I'm not very good at watching tight situations like that. I just love being involved in the game and the high-pressure situations and it probably brings the best out of me in terms of my cricket. So hopefully we don't get it down to that tight again, especially after the start we got. But I enjoy getting put into the big moments in games."

There's been a fair amount of big-game pressure flying around for Stokes in this tournament so far. On the face of it he has not been as influential as, say, Joe Root or Jos Buttler. His only wicket of the campaign came against Afghanistan, while he has a top-score of 15 in four innings.

But that underplays the importance of his floating role to England's team dynamic. In their pursuit of 230 against South Africa, for instance, Stokes was pitched in at No. 3 in the midst of the Powerplay, with orders to keep the momentum flying after Alex Hales and Jason Roy's riotous start against the new ball. He did not hang around for long, but he smashed a four and a 94 metre six in the course of his nine-ball stay, leaving the stage set for Root and Buttler to take a more measured approach to the middle overs.

Stokes on England's plan for New Zealand - "We're not going to change anything that we've done throughout this whole series just because it is a semi-final" © Getty Images

"It doesn't bother me," he said. "Look at the line-up we've got at the moment, there's no one going to come in and take anyone's place. Rooty's a world-class player, one of the best around in all three forms at the moment. Even though Morgy's [Eoin Morgan] struggled a bit in the tournament so far, he's still one of the guys who other teams will look at and know he's a very dangerous player. Jos the other night showed how good he is, so it's quite hard to get in ahead of him. But I'm happy in the role I'm playing - I know what game plan I have to go to whenever I come in."

The sense is of a cricketer who is maturing before our eyes - and bearing in mind he does not turn 25 until June, it's safe to assume he is still a long way from his peak. Nevertheless, for a man who was omitted from the 2015 World Cup and who missed the 2014 World T20 in Bangladesh after punching a locker and breaking his wrist, he is happy to be making up for lost time at major tournaments.

"Twenty20 is generally the fun side of cricket," he said. "You've also got to have a sense of humour. Some days you can turn up and get whacked. Next game, turn up, bowl the same and not go for many runs. You've got to take it as it comes. It's been enjoyable, and obviously it's a massive help when you're winning and you get through to the semis."

Next up come New Zealand, a team for whom Stokes might even have been playing had his life not been transported to the Northern Hemisphere as a child, when his father Ged, a rugby league coach, relocated the family to Cockermouth in Cumbria. "I might have had a different accent," he joked, when asked how different his life might have been.

"They're the form team," he added. "They haven't lost a game yet. We played in a warm-up game [in Mumbai] and beat them, so we'll take confidence from that, and obviously we beat them in our English summer. We know if we can play to our capabilities, like we did against Sri Lanka, then no matter who we face - albeit New Zealand in the semis - then we'll give any team a good run.

"We're not going to change anything that we've done throughout this whole series just because it is a semi-final," he said. "I don't think that would be the right way and I don't think that would be the way we'd go anyway because of the team that we have. So we're not going to look to change anything. It is just another game of cricket, albeit a semi-final."

England's record at ICC global events is famously poor - a solitary trophy in 41 years of trying. Nevertheless, this team is potentially two wins away from emulating the World T20 side of 2010, which beat Australia in Bridgetown under the leadership of Paul Collingwood - who happens to be a member of England's support staff on this trip.

"Colly did say at the start of the tournament, when we were beaten by West Indies that getting beaten by them was a good omen because it happened to him," Stokes said, recalling a rain-affected opening match in Providence six years ago.

"If we can keep following like that and eventually be the winners, that would be amazing. I think we're one of the least-experienced teams out here. We weren't one of the favourites going in. It would be proving a lot of people wrong."

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. He tweets @miller_cricket

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dean Paul Van Zyl on April 4, 2016, 7:55 GMT

    After the final, this article is awkward....

  • Ben on April 3, 2016, 17:48 GMT

    Hmmm good article but poor Stokes struggled under the pressure today 24 from 4 balls in final over is not a big pressure player! But fair play to the guy for taking up the challenge and bowling the last over he will be better for the experience and will learn from it ?

  • John on March 31, 2016, 19:54 GMT

    England are not a perfect T20 team, but they do have their strengths. The present selection has 4 seamers all of whom are capable of bowling the last overs of the match. They have 2 spin bowlers who can take wickets and thus be match-winners. Thus they have 6 first-line bowlers and the question the captain has to work out is who doesn't bowl their full allocation, rather than the frequent problem of having 4 first-line bowlers, and making up the fifth with an amalgam of part-timers (such as Bopara, who is a good part-timer, but not someone you expect to bowl the last over). The second quality they have is that they bat to number 11. Stokes is a part of both of these team assets, he can thump the ball, bat for a while (he was originally picked as a batsman - he was injured at the time and could not bowl), and his captain picked him to bowl the last over of a critical T20. He is not a perfect cricketer, but he is a real asset.

  • Devinderpal Singh on March 30, 2016, 13:58 GMT

    Hmm, Dawson important to has Carberry, but he had his numerous chances for England, right? Certain players from certain demographics are destined for numerous, undeserved opportunities, and without debuting in any format for England, Dawson has made a squad for an ICC event ahead of better, experienced players. I'm sure you like that Dawson is there, regardless of the rationale.

    Re: 3rd spinner-batsman: So If you wanted a 3rd spinning-allrounder, you'd have to drop someone from the squad, but according to you, there is no-one to argue against, meaning no-one can be dropped, so who would you drop for a spinning-allrounder? Lol. P4 of 4.

  • Devinderpal Singh on March 30, 2016, 13:56 GMT

    "saying he [Morgan] doesn't deserve his place is just ridiculous". Haha. I've disproven this enough times, so if people don't even see it now, they don't WANT to.

    Re: Bates and Boyce: I remember as much about them as people remember about Jermaine Jenas' career: We know he was there, but remember nothing as it was so insignificant. Fielding is never more important than justifying one's place with the bat and/or ball. Fielding means nothing if there aren't good enough bowlers creating chances, and good enough batsmen to score sufficient runs.

    Re: Tredwell: So Tredwell deserved to be dropped after the World Cup, due to a limited-overs season that had not finished, and for the New Zealand series, barely started? Lol. O.k, bud...

    Re: Arguing legitimately against: Roy, Morgan, Stokes, Jordan, Willey (who even England dropped for Billings, remember?), Billings (when there is Bairstow) and no-caps Dawson can all be effectively argued against. No idea what you base your view on. P3 of 4.

  • Devinderpal Singh on March 30, 2016, 13:53 GMT

    You can talk up Stokes' supposed improvement, but he's not rectified his record, and has to do a lot, to do that. Until then, here's a recent scorecard that Stokes will never come close to matching: I bet you don't count it as it's 'only' in the PSL, on not so relevant pitches for, Idk, the current tournament? Lol. Hmm...even though he dismissed Gayle, Akmal, Bravo, Rizwan, 2 more batsmen, and even scored 71 on the same pitch, pummelling Bravo and Cooper, while his team-mates fell regularly. You were saying? I think I'll remind you of the most recent events as they are being ignored: In the PSL, he scored 329 runs in 8 innings, averaging 54.83, striking at 132.12, which made him the 2nd highest run-scorer, despite being down the order often. With the ball, he bowled 22 overs, took 11 wickets, averaging 13.81, economy of 6.9, striking at 12. Not good enough, compared to Stokes' 'improvement' from an already low base? P2 of 4.

  • Devinderpal Singh on March 30, 2016, 13:50 GMT

    @cod: Hilarious. "[Bopara] has been rightly axed". When you are picked and dropped tons of times, batting out of position and barely bowling when you should be, it can't be termed as underperforming. Also, if Bopara deserved axing, how did Ballance deserve to replace him? He hadn't played a match for 6 months, yet walks into the team. Ultimately, Bopara didn't underperform in last year's World Cup, Morgan and co did, so the benched players are meant to be next in line, not first out. After all, that was their last series, so the failures should've led to them being dropped, right?

    It's funny how you'll ignore Bopara in T20Is (which is the format of this tournament), especially the most recent performances for England, which, if they are bad, warrant exclusion, yet as he performs, he still warrants exclusion. When Stokes has numbers like Bopara amassed when he was down the order in his last 2 years for Eng, let me know. Explain to me why Bopara was dropped from the T20I team? P1 of 4.

  • Tom on March 29, 2016, 17:43 GMT

    BEN SMALLWOOD ON MARCH 29, 2016, 8:50 GMT "Stokes is a good typical New Zealand Alrounder, I wonder if he has mixed feelings playing against his country." Give it a rest mate, he moved to the UK when he was 12 ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Are you sure? I thought it was 6 or 7.

  • Paulo on March 29, 2016, 17:20 GMT

    @D.S.A Re Dawson, I'd say he's the only player in the squad who you could legitimately argue against, but even he deserves his place. Not only did he play very well this summer after going on loan to Essex, but he's been an import part of the side that's got to 6 consecutive finals days. He bowls spin- has out-bowled Danny Briggs the last couple of years (my view as a Hampshire member), is a good fielder and useful batsman. Arguably a third spinner allrounder was required in the squad so who else, other than maybe Croft?

  • Paulo on March 29, 2016, 17:15 GMT

    @D.S.A No doubt there were times when Bopara waste mistreated but his most recent times for England he underperformed with bat and ball and has been rightly axed. I group him with the likes of Luke Wright and Smith and Pollard of the West Indies- fantastic at domestic level but rubbish in international cricket. Morgan may be having a poor tournament but saying he doesn't deserve his place is just ridiculous, and I used to share your opinion of Stokes until I saw him genuinely improve in limited overs cricket, and you can't underplay the importance of his fielding- remember Michael Bates for Hampshire in 2010 and 2012 or Matthew Boyce of Leicestershire in 2011? Please don't tell me that these guys were passengers with no influence on their sides winning the T20 cup.

    Tredwell- you know I'm a massive fan and he was treated horrendously during the world cup, but he was poor in County cricket particularly T20 this summer

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