Weather not enough to stop rampant Stokes

Ed Nixon Roar Pro

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    Ben Stokes smashed an unbeaten 102 off 109 balls as he guided England to a 40 run Duckworth-Lewis win over Australia in a rain-affected contest at Edgbaston.

    Coming to the crease with England struggling at 35-3 chasing 278, Stokes combined with captain Eoin Morgan for a 164-run partnership that saw England take control of the game.

    Stokes, coming off a strong 48 against New Zealand in the last match, played some great counter-attacking strokes in an innings which included 13 fours and two mammoth sixes to take the game by the scruff of the neck.

    The knock was the all-rounder’s third ODI hundred and first against Australia as he posted his career high score to knock the Aussies out of the tournament.

    As an Englishman it pains me to say this, but Australia can count themselves unlucky with the weather.

    With all three of their group games washed out, Bangladesh’s victory over New Zealand meant they advanced to the semi-finals at the expense of the much stronger Australian outfit.

    Steve Smith’s men play some good cricket against Bangladesh, but although they were inconsistent against New Zealand and England, they must be disappointed their tournament is over before it even started.

    Back to England, though, and this result came as no surprise to me.

    I may be biased, but England has been the best ODI team in the past 18 months and arguably since the end of their disastrous 2015 world cup campaign.

    Durham star Stokes has been instrumental in this success as the side has adopted a new look attacking brand of cricket.

    His 1-61 in the first innings may not grab the headlines, but he took the key wicket of Aaron Finch for 68 just as the Victorian was starting to put Australia in a strong position.

    Along with Captain Smith, the pair had put on a 96-run partnership for the second wicket and had their side set for a big score before Finch’s skied cover drive was taken smartly by Morgan.

    England can now put their feet up and await their next opponent. Having topped Group A, they have the luxury of playing the second-ranked team in a tight Group B, with South Africa, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka all potential challengers.

    If England plays the way they have in their first three games, I find it hard seeing any team defeating them.

    This is a team that in 47 games since the world cup have scored at least 300 runs on 23 occasions with batsmen Joe Root, Alex Hales, Morgan and Stokes all in sublime touch.

    England’s batsmen were well discussed before this tournament and for the most part have delivered – but it’s the bowlers who have impressed me.

    After Chris Woakes went down with a side strain injury against Bangladesh after two overs you could understand people fearing for the worst.

    In a previous article I wrote previewing the tournament, England’s attack was labelled ‘poor’ and ‘sub-par’. It is this same bowling unit of Jake Ball, Mark Wood, Liam Plunkett and Adil Rashid who have all stood up, however, taking important wickets through the tournament.

    Plunkett kept Bangladesh to 4-59 and New Zealand to 4-55, Ball held New Zealand at 2-31 and Wood and Rashid kept Australia to 4-33 and 4-41 respectively.

    Batting? Check.

    Bowling? Check

    It looks like my pre-tournament optimism may have been justified.