Ben Stokes effortlessly dismissed any uncertainties regarding his preparedness to participate in 50-over cricket after a 14-month hiatus from ODI retirement. He vigorously hammered his fourth century in this format within a mere 76 deliveries, subsequently progressing to seize the record for the highest score in this format by an Englishman, amounting to a formidable 182 runs from 124 balls as New Zealand encountered significant difficulties at The Oval.

Stokes graced the field during the third over, confronting the challenge of Trent Boult’s artful manipulation of the new ball, with England teetering at a precarious 13 for 2. However, he partnered with Dawid Malan to craft a pivotal third-wicket partnership, amassing a substantial 199 runs in 165 deliveries. Stokes embarked on a ruthless onslaught against Lockie Ferguson, plundering an impressive 56 runs from the 30 deliveries he faced from the Kiwi bowler; in sum, Ferguson’s nine overs proved quite prodigious, conceding a total of 80 runs.

As he valiantly combated the tribulations of his knee injury, Stokes made a conscious decision to confront adversity head-on. He dispatched nine sixes into the stands, including six within the final 31 balls of his innings. When he eventually departed, attempting to dispatch a tenth six and finding himself caught at square leg, the capacity crowd rose in unison to salute the hero of England’s triumphant 2019 World Cup campaign. Undoubtedly, they were imbued with a profound belief that he possessed the capability to once again inspire their side to a triumphant title defense on Indian soil.

Ben Stokes Storm century

While Stokes seized the spotlight, this particular day may have also served as the crucible for the formation of England’s World Cup squad. With Jason Roy sidelined for a third consecutive ODI due to his recurring back spasms, Dawid Malan returned from his paternity leave and seized the opportunity with both hands. His impressive 96 runs from 95 deliveries marked his second half-century of the series and his ninth score surpassing 50 in 20 ODIs.

Initially, Malan appeared to be a surplus batting option when England initially announced their provisional 15-man squad a month prior. His position seemed precarious, especially following his omission from the Trent Rockets in the Hundred and a lackluster performance in the T20I series. Harry Brook, initially excluded from the squad, presented a compelling case for inclusion.

However, it appears increasingly likely that Malan will assume a pivotal role on October 5, when England commences their World Cup campaign in Ahmedabad against New Zealand. He may well partner with Jonny Bairstow at the top of the order. In this scenario, Brook could potentially eclipse Jason Roy for the remaining batting slot in the squad, given his adaptability and Roy’s inconsistent fitness record.

Following England’s triumph at the Ageas Bowl, Jos Buttler and his comrades deliberated upon the imperative of liberating themselves, striving for enhanced positivity and aggressiveness. In response, Malan and Stokes forged a resolute partnership, culminating in a remarkable 100-run alliance spanning 15.1 overs. Malan took the initiative in confronting the new ball, dispatching it to the boundary on six occasions within the initial 10 overs.

Malan exhibited his characteristic prowess in executing the pull shot, dispatching Ben Lister through the square leg region for four boundaries, and accelerated into the 80s by lofting Kyle Jamieson over long-on. Boult eventually dismissed him, leg side stranglehold, as he approached a century, but by that juncture, he had laid the ideal foundation with England at 212 for 3 after 30.1 overs.

Ultimately, England fell slightly short of the anticipated 400-run total. Jos Buttler briefly illuminated the proceedings with a brisk 38 runs from 24 deliveries. However, Stokes’ dismissal in the 45th over precipitated a collapse, resulting in the loss of 5 wickets for a mere 20 runs. Trent Boult, the standout performer among the New Zealand bowlers, earned a coveted five-wicket haul by rearranging Gus Atkinson’s stumps.

To offer a semblance of mitigation for New Zealand, it must be noted that Mitchell Santner endured a knee injury at the Ageas Bowl, while Ish Sodhi was granted respite. Consequently, they entrusted their spin-bowling duties to all-rounders Glenn Phillips and Rachin Ravindra, as neither Kyle Jamieson nor Ben Lister are expected to feature in the upcoming World Cup, barring unforeseen circumstances.

Stokes, however, ensured that England maximized their advantage against a depleted New Zealand bowling attack, amassing 59 runs from 35 deliveries of spin, which included three colossal sixes that rendered Ravindra ineffective after his second over. His eventual dismissal at the hands of Lister, albeit after surpassing Roy.

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