Derek Pringle says England owe their match-winning total to an admirably restrained approach from their explosive all-rounder
For a moment, in the last third of England’s innings against South Africa at the Oval, it looked like the oldBen Stokes was back. Not just the swaggering swatter of off-side fours but the man who was last seen advancing with menaces not on a cricket field but outside a night club in Bristol.
I say looked, it was just a glimpse really, as he reached his fifty with a flurry of boundaries off one Duanne Pretorious over. The first four scored utilised brute force, plain and simple, as he clubbed a slower ball to the long-off boundary.
The next, two balls later, saw him leave his crease, bat at the ready, and heave the tall, fast medium bowler to the mid-wicket fence. He completed his third next ball with a reverse dab, which sped past the fielder at short third man – as subtle as a Farrow and Ball colour chart.
At that point he’d almost caught up his partner, Eoin Morgan, who was on 54. Yet, just as you felt that Stokes might unleash the demon that has been tethered ever since he was bound over to keep the peace, and turn it upon a legitimate foe in a legitimate forum, Morgan went and got out in the next over – his demise as unnecessary as the slog off Imran Tahir he played to hasten it.
That was in the 37th over when England had 217-4. Yet, instead of being able to impose the old Stokes on South Africa in a phase of the game where batsmen tend to cast off their inhibitions, he kept losing partners at regular intervals to a mixture of poor judgment (Moeen Ali and Chris Woakes) and bad luck (Jos Buttler).
The upshot was that the almost emancipated demon had to be put back in his box as Stokes took responsibility for getting his team to the best score he could without taking the kind of risk that would endanger his wicket.
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May 31, 2019