- Talisman Stokes available for selection
- Durham star urges England to be more aggressive
- Huge boost ahead of South Africa clash
England talisman Ben Stokes has defied initial fears of a tournament ending hip injury and is now poised to take on South Africa in a pivotal World Cup clash this Saturday.
Stokes return boosts England’s hopes
Stokes, 32, suffered the injury during a gym session a mere five days before the tournament, sidelining him for England’s first three matches. Recounting the moment, he admitted to hearing a concerning “pop” and initially believing his World Cup journey was prematurely over.
However, subsequent assessments have revealed a more optimistic prognosis, with Stokes expressing relief that the injury was not as severe as initially feared. On Thursday, he demonstrated promising signs of recovery by engaging in a rigorous 30-minute batting session in the nets and fully participating in demanding fielding drills.
England, the defending champions, have faced a challenging start to their campaign, losing two matches and securing one victory in Stokes’ absence. The team’s title defence now hangs in the balance, with a potential loss to South Africa likely necessitating a string of subsequent victories to secure a spot in the semi-finals.
Following lacklustre performances, particularly with the bat in their defeat against Afghanistan, Stokes implored his teammates to revert to the aggressive approach that propelled them to victory in 2019 under former captain Eoin Morgan.
Stokes emphasised, “If we’re going to go down, let’s go down doing what we’re known for. Let’s not be timid, be restricted in what we want to do. We want to go out and show the opposition what England is and what we’ve been known for.”
England head coach Matthew Mott had called Stokes the side’s “spiritual leader” earlier this week after the Test captain spoke to the group following their defeat to Afghanistan in Delhi.
Stokes played the key innings as England won the 2019 World Cup final at Lord’s and last year’s T20 World Cup final in Melbourne, while his superb 135 not out at Headingley in 2019 saw his team to a dramatic one-wicket Ashes victory.
Stokes said: “Being a senior player, I try to speak as much as I can when the time is right. If I need to speak I will but I won’t speak for speaking’s sake.
“I noticed that the lads were a bit deflated, and not just because it was Afghanistan, so I just said what’s gone has happened and that we need to move on against South Africa. I tried to come at it from an emotional point of view.
“Be ourselves, be England, be confident that no one will have a go at you for failing in what you want to do. It is about reinforcing the message of trying to impose yourself with ball or bat.”
While acknowledging that the team has evolved in the intervening years, Stokes stressed the importance of building upon their strengths rather than dwelling on past achievements.
South Africa, who started their campaign impressively with wins against Sri Lanka and Australia, were dealt a surprise defeat by the Netherlands just days after England’s loss to Afghanistan.
Stokes, known for his ability to thrive in pressure-cooker situations, has been a linchpin of England’s success across formats. His stellar performances in the 2019 World Cup final and the 2019 Ashes, particularly his heroic century at Headingley, underscore his capacity to rise to the occasion.
With Stokes back in the fold, England anticipate a substantial boost in their batting line-up. And while Stokes is highly unlikely to be able to bowl at the moment, he is an excellent fielder.. The upcoming clash against South Africa holds immense significance for England’s World Cup aspirations, and Stokes’ return provides a beacon of hope for fans and teammates alike. His presence could very well be the catalyst for a much-needed turnaround in their tournament fortunes.
At the time of writing, bet365 have England as 8/11 favourites to win on Saturday, with South Africa 11/10.
Betway are currently offering 8/1 for England to win the World Cup. Hosts India are still favourites at 11/10 ahead of New Zealand, 9/2, Australia 11/2 and South Africa 6/1.