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Wisden at CWC19

Stokes kickstarts his majestic summer – Almanack

Ben Stokes
Lawrence Booth by Lawrence Booth
@the_topspin 2 minute read

Ben Stokes followed his superb batting display with an outstanding one-handed grab at deep midwicket as England began the 2019 Cricket World Cup with a dominant win over South Africa. Here’s Lawrence Booth’s report in the 2020 Wisden Almanack.

England v South Africa
Match 1, ICC Cricket World Cup 2019
The Oval, London
May 30, 2019

Ben Stokes was cursing himself as Phehlukwayo nailed a slog-sweep. He had strayed in from the mid-wicket fence: a six seemed inevitable. But instinct took him backwards and sideways. He twisted his body as he leapt for the sky, and somehow emerged clutching the ball in his right hand. As The Oval erupted, the World Cup sprang to life. It was the champagne moment of an England victory built on responsible batting, the fluid bowling of Archer, and Stokes’s all-round vivacity.

His first contribution had been an intelligent 89 off 79 balls, his highest international score since returning from suspension in February 2018. That followed fifties from Roy, Root and Morgan, who was winning an England record 200th one-day international cap (there were also 23 for Ireland), and passed 7,000 ODI runs. But a total of 311 required hard work. Bairstow had fallen to the day’s second ball, bowled – in a cute move from du Plessis – by leg-spinner Imran Tahir, and the last 15 overs produced a modest 111 for five, as South Africa’s seamers exploited slower deliveries on a grudging pitch.

Archer then purred into action, forcing Amla off for a concussion test after hitting his helmet (he returned later, to little avail), and beating Markram and du Plessis for pace. De Kock rallied, though on 25 Rashid’s googly brushed his off stump without dislodging one of the briefly illuminated bails. But when Plunkett persuaded de Kock to shovel a long hop to long leg, South Africa disintegrated, losing eight for 78. That included the run-out of Pretorius by Stokes from deep extra cover – and that catch.

By the time he wrapped things up with two wickets in two balls, the match award had long been decided. A full house disappeared into the south London evening talking of the miracle at mid-wicket.

First published in 2020 Wisden Almanack

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