Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98
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England 368 (Stokes 182, Malan 96, Boult 5-51, Lister 3-69) beat New Zealand 187 (Phillips 72, Livingstone 3-16, Woakes 3-31) by 181 runs
If there were any doubts about his readiness to play 50-over cricket after 14 months in ODI retirement, Ben Stokes laughed them off at the KIa Oval. He belted his fourth century in the format off 76 balls, then pushed on to claim the highest score in the format by an Englishman with 182 off 124 to set up a crushing victory over New Zealand.
Stokes walked out in the third over with Trent Boult swinging the new ball and England in trouble at 13 for 2, but shared a third-wicket stand worth 199 in 165 balls with Dawid Malan. He launched a brutal assault on Lockie Ferguson, looting 56 runs off the 30 balls he faced from him; all told, Ferguson's nine overs cost 80.
Stokes started frantically, charging down the pitch and skipping outside leg stump to give himself room to play over the off side. He had 13 off 19 when Ferguson came into the attack and immediately looked to take him on, hitting three boundaries in four balls - one via a thick leading edge - in Ferguson's second over.
That was enough to get Stokes going, and thereafter he played at a similar tempo to the one he adopted during the Ashes earlier this summer: prodded and scuffed singles interspersed with calculated, dismissive swipes into the stands. The pick of the bunch, a skip-down-and-swing off Glenn Phillips, was caught in the second tier of the Pavilion.
As he battled his knee injury, Stokes opted to stand and deliver. He crunched nine sixes, including six in his final 31 balls. When he holed out to square leg, attempting to hit a tenth, the sell-out crowd stood to applaud the hero of England's 2019 World Cup triumph, no doubt imbued with the belief that he could yet inspire them to a successful defence of their title in India.
"It's good to come back in after a while out and put a big contribution into us winning the game," Stokes said. "Today was good for me personally, just to get familiarity again with how 50-over cricket goes. We lost a few quick wickets and I wanted to go out and put them under a bit of pressure. There were a couple of times I had to check myself because I looked up and there were still 23-24 overs left... you have way more time than you think.
"I didn't really know [about the record] until the bloke on the tannoy announced it - then I got out next ball," he said. "There were a couple of stages where I was scoring quite freely and felt like I wanted to keep going and going and going... in 50-over cricket, we always want to go out and put on big scores but [it was a case of] realising how much more time I had."
Stokes spent the start of New Zealand's innings off the field, though insisted his knee is "getting better and better". He said: "I just needed a little bit of treatment. Test matches are longer, but you get a break; one-day games, you don't get that. It's just different, but these first three games have been good."
New Zealand's nominal attempt to chase 369 quickly turned into glorified middle practice. Chris Woakes bowled eight overs on the reel from the Pavilion End, finishing his opening spell with 3 for 31 and ending the game as a contest; Phillips, who made a career-best 72, was the only batter to reach 30 as New Zealand folded for 187.
While Stokes took centre stage, this might have been the day that England's World Cup squad worked itself out. With Jason Roy ruled out for a third consecutive ODI after suffering his second back spasm in six days, Malan returned from paternity leave and took his chance. His 96 off 95 balls was his second half-century of the series and his ninth 50-plus score out of 20 in ODIs.
Malan appeared to be the spare batter when England named their provisional 15-man squad a month ago. After being dropped by Trent Rockets in the Hundred and a scratchy T20I series, Malan's spot looked vulnerable - not least with Harry Brook, who missed the initial cut, pitching an irresistible case.
But it now feels increasingly likely that Malan will feature on October 5, when England play New Zealand in the opening game of the World Cup in Ahmedabad, quite possibly as Jonny Bairstow's opening partner. And if Malan is pencilled in for that role, Brook might well edge Roy to the remaining batting spot in the squad, given his versatility and Roy's patchy fitness record.
After England's victory at the Ageas Bowl on Sunday, Jos Buttler and his players spoke "about freeing ourselves up… trying to get back to being even more positive, even more aggressive". Malan and Stokes responded accordingly, bringing up a 100-run stand in 15.1 overs; Malan attacked the new ball, with six crisply-struck boundaries inside the first 10 overs.
Malan was typically strong on the pull, twice nailing Ben Lister through square leg for four, and raced into the 80s by flogging Kyle Jamieson over long-on. He strangled Boult down the leg side after getting a little stuck as three figures approached, but at 212 for 3 after 30.1 overs, he had laid the ideal platform.
England couldn't convert it into the 400-plus score that seemed inevitable, leaving 11 balls unused as their lower order collapsed. Buttler sparkled briefly for 38 off 24 but Stokes' dismissal in the 45th over triggered a slide of 5 for 20; Boult, the pick of the New Zealand attack, claimed a sixth ODI five-for by rearranging Gus Atkinson's stumps.
There was some mitigation for New Zealand with the ball. With Mitchell Santner jarring his knee at the Ageas Bowl on Sunday and Ish Sodhi rested, they relied on two allrounders in Phillips and Rachin Ravindra to bowl spin, while neither Jamieson nor Lister will feature for them in the World Cup, barring injury.
But Stokes ensured that England took advantage of their weakened attack, scoring 59 off the 35 balls of spin he faced - including three huge sixes which rendered Ravindra unusable after his second over. It came as a surprise when he eventually fell to Lister - but not before breaking Roy's record for the highest innings by an Englishman in ODIs.
With Adil Rashid and Mark Wood both kept in cotton wool - or, at least, in luminous green bibs in the substitutes' dugout - England were also without their two main bowlers in their defence, but it hardly mattered: Woakes had Will Young caught behind and Henry Nicholls miscuing to square leg, and his inswinger rattled Tom Latham's stumps.
Devon Conway looked out of sorts for his 9 off 18 before he fell lbw to Reece Topley to leave New Zealand 37 for 4, before Sam Curran had Daryl Mitchell caught behind and Moeen Ali bowled Ravindra with an arm ball. Phillips launched a couple of futile sixes as the asking rate soared; by the time he was lbw on review for the first of Liam Livingstone's three wickets, The Oval was half-empty.
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