Chris Woakes says Ben Stokes’ record-breaking 182 gave England a timely reminder of what they can achieve with his “superhuman” skills.
Stokes was in rampant form against New Zealand on Wednesday, making the country’s highest ever ODI score in just his third innings since reversing his year-long retirement from the format.
With England’s World Cup defence less than three weeks away it was a perfect way for the man who carried them to victory in the 2019 final to prove his sense of occasion once again.
The highest individual ODI score for England 🙌
1⃣8⃣2⃣ runs 1⃣2⃣4⃣ ballsSixes 9⃣ Fours 1⃣5⃣
See them all here 👇
— England Cricket (@englandcricket) September 14, 2023
Stokes has nothing left to prove on the big stage but watching him bully England’s first World Cup opponents with nine sixes and 15 fours sent a wave of energy through the dressing room.
England went on to wrap up victory by a huge margin of 181 runs, another reminder that when he is in the side, the whole team walks a little taller.
“We obviously see Ben as this superhuman that can do incredible things. We know he can,” said Woakes, who picked up the baton with three early wickets in the field.
“It was great for the group and brilliant for Ben too. He’s an unbelievable cricketer but coming back into the team having retired, it will do his confidence a world of good.
“We always have doubts and performance anxieties at the best of times, so it’s great for his confidence and great for the team’s confidence and belief that we can post huge scores.
“It was amazing to be here and play in the game because that was an incredible knock.
“He struck it cleaner than anyone else out there. It just shows how good a player he is.”
Since walking away from 50-over cricket last summer citing workload issues, Stokes has poured his energies into his role as Test captain.
Working closely with head coach Brendon McCullum, he has revitalised the red-ball set-up, flipping their fortunes in dramatic fashion and playing out a thrilling drawn Ashes series that gripped the nation.
Woakes feels that stepping back into the ranks under Jos Buttler’s leadership, and operating as a specialist batter rather than all-action all-rounder, is a good thing for Stokes.
“I think him coming back into this team is probably a refreshing feeling for him, without the captaincy on his shoulders. To run the England Test team is a tough job,” he said.
“He’s probably seen this as a breath of fresh air, to play his natural game and be his natural person, which he always does.
“This group of players who have been around this team for a long time, always feel comfortable when we come back together.”
England’s World Cup squad has one more game together before departing for India, wrapping up their clash with the Black Caps at Lord’s on Friday.
There is hope that Jason Roy and Mark Wood will be fit for selection, with both sidelined for each of the last three matches. Roy has been laid low twice by back spasms and Wood has been kept in cotton well since ending the Ashes with a heel problem.
Roy, in particular, will be eager to feel bat on ball. Dawid Malan made 96 at opener on Wednesday to position himself as a viable alternative and Harry Brook continues to linger as a possible replacement should Roy’s fitness continue to raise questions.
“I think he’s hopeful. This close to a World Cup it’s a bit of a risk to throw him into a game when you’re unsure as to how he’s going to go,” said Woakes.
“Fingers crossed he’s alright. I’m sure he’s desperate to get out there and I’m sure he’s frustrated as well.
“Pre-World Cup you want to get a bit of form behind you and play as many games as possible but he’s a resilient character; the lads have got around him and I’m sure he’ll be fine.”