Ben Stokes returns to England ODI squad ahead of World Cup defence

Ben Stokes returns to England ODI squad ahead of World Cup defence

Ben Stokes, England’s Test captain and hero of their 2019 World Cup triumph, has reversed his decision to retire from 50-over cricket ahead of the team’s defence of their title in India this autumn, and will make his comeback for the men’s ODI squad in the forthcoming series against New Zealand.

Stokes, 32, stood down from the 50-over format last summer, claiming that it was unsustainable for him to give his best across all three formats of the game, and that the “England shirt deserves nothing less” than 100% commitment.

However, given his starring roles in the finals of both the 50-over World Cup in 2019 and the 20-over version in Melbourne last November, Stokes’ big-match temperament was an asset that England were loath to do without, with both Matthew Mott, the white-ball coach, and Jos Buttler, the captain, consistent in their desire to lure him back to the ODI format.

He has duly been named in a 15-man squad that Luke Wright, England’s National Selector, confirmed is the line-up that they intend on taking to India in October, where their campaign will get underway against the same opponents, New Zealand, in a rematch of their epic final at Lord’s in July 2019.

“It wasn’t really a case of changing his mind,” Wright said. “He was always interested in coming back. It wasn’t a case of needing to beg him or anything like that, he was always keen. Once his body was in a good place and he’d had a rest, he was really keen to play. We’re delighted from our point of view and I’m sure England fans and everyone can be absolutely delighted.”

Stokes will, however, feature as a specialist batter given the chronic knee injury that hampered his allround role during the Ashes. In the wake of England’s 2-2 draw in the Ashes last month, he had hinted at the prospect of knee surgery ahead of England’s Test tour of India in the new year, but that prospect would appear to be off the table for now.

“It’s not a simple one, is it?” Wright added. “He’s coming to the World Cup and we’re going to pick him as a batter. We’re always assessing that as it goes, but we won’t be pushing him to bowl unless he’s absolutely fit and raring to go. There’s still going to be a period for him to try and get this knee right but it’s obviously not an easy one.

“You know Stokesy, if ever there’s someone for the big moments it’s Ben Stokes. I think that’s what it is – it’s probably for him thinking it’s a last chance in the 50 overs to go and win it again. Who better for England to have someone like him come back for us? He loves the big moments. We’re all just so happy he’s back in the squad, I know it will give a big lift to the boys in that squad to have him back and we all can’t wait to have him back and hopefully involved in lifting a trophy again for England.”

Although England do not have to name their provisional World Cup squad until September 5, with scope for further changes until September 28, Stokes is set to be one of nine survivors from the 2019 tournament, with Jonny Bairstow also in line for his first white-ball internationals since breaking his leg in September last year.

However, with another of the 2019 heroes, Jofra Archer, not yet fit for a recall despite England’s hopes that he could feature in the World Cup’s latter stages, the notable call-up is for Surrey’s Gus Atkinson, a fast bowler who was clocked at 95mph for Oval Invincibles in the Men’s Hundred last week, and who is in line to make his debut across both white-ball formats.

“First and foremost, Gus deserves to be in there,” Wright said. “I’m sure everyone’s been watching him, he’s hugely exciting and he’s been outstanding, not just in the Hundred but also how he’s gone in the Blast. He roughed me up on a few occasions when I was still playing and marked my card. He’s a real asset for us and we’re delighted to give him an opportunity.”

Although Wright confirmed that Archer is expected to travel with the World Cup squad as a reserve, he acknowledged that there had to be a “duty of care” in managing his return for a long-term elbow injury, not to mention the back stress fracture that ruled him out of the 2022 season.

“Regarding the World Cup, unfortunately we’re just running out of time,” Wright said. “He’s not going to come round quite quickly enough especially for the first part of the World Cup. There is a duty of care with him, we have to make sure that long-term we get it right, because we see him as a huge asset for a long time. As much as the temptation is to try and rush him in and get him in for the start of this World Cup, unfortunately we’re just going to run out of time.”

Atkinson takes his place in an ODI pace attack that also features Mark Wood and Chris Woakes, two 2019 veterans who were in outstanding form for the Test team during the recent Ashes, as well as the left-armers David Willey (who missed the cut for 2019) and Reece Topley, who returned to action in the Hundred earlier this month, after suffering a dislocated shoulder during his maiden IPL stint in April.

The notable absentee from England’s World Cup plans is Harry Brook, their rising star across formats. With Jason Roy trusted to continue his return to form after a fallow 18 months, and Joe Root’s expertise against spin making him a banker for Indian conditions despite having not played white-ball cricket since July 2022, Brook will have to make his case from the T20I squad instead.

“It’s as hard a decision as you’re ever going to get,” Wright said. “No doubting he’s someone we couldn’t think any more highly of. There’s no denying what a superstar he is, and what a huge future he’s got with us going forward in all forms. That’s the incredibly tough decision we’ve had to make. I’m sure he’s disappointed, but unfortunately in a 15-man squad someone’s going to have to miss out. On this occasion it’s been him, but it didn’t make it any easier.”

Brook will be joined in that party by a number of other players who could be travelling reserves at the World Cup, most particularly Ben Duckett and Will Jacks, who is currently behind both Moeen Ali and Liam Livingstone in the spin-bowling allrounder stakes.

Rehan Ahmed, Adil Rashid’s likely successor as England’s premier legspinner, is also in the T20I squad, as is Hampshire’s uncapped pace bowler, John Turner, whose dismissal of Bairstow in a fiery display for Trent Rockets on Monday was a timely display of his credentials. Josh Tongue is also included in the 20-over set-up, and can expect a chance to make another England debut after his breakthrough summer with the Test squad.

Wright added: “We have been able to name two extremely strong squads that underline the depth of talent we enjoy in white-ball cricket. Any series against New Zealand is closely fought and will provide us with an ideal opportunity to test ourselves against one of the best teams in the world.”

England ODI squad Jos Buttler (capt), Moeen Ali, Gus Atkinson, Jonny Bairstow, Sam Curran, Liam Livingstone, Dawid Malan, Adil Rashid, Joe Root, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes, Reece Topley, David Willey, Mark Wood, Chris Woakes

England T20I squad Jos Buttler (capt), Rehan Ahmed, Moeen Ali, Gus Atkinson, Jonny Bairstow, Harry Brook, Sam Curran, Ben Duckett, Will Jacks, Liam Livingstone, Dawid Malan, Adil Rashid, Josh Tongue, John Turner, Luke Wood

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket

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