Jos Buttler hailed the “sense of calm” that Ben Stokes provides after the talismanic all-rounder kept his composure to usher England into the T20 World Cup semi-finals.
Stokes was averaging 9.8 with the bat in six innings since returning to the T20 set-up but he came to England’s rescue when they needed him most in their final Super 12s match against Sri Lanka in Sydney.
England had to win to pip Australia to a second-place finish in the group but, chasing 142, they stumbled from 75 without loss after 7.1 overs to 129 for six to require 13 from the final 12 balls.
Stokes, batting at first drop after Dawid Malan injured his left groin in Sri Lanka’s innings, stayed cool and his unbeaten 42 off 36 balls helped England to a four-wicket victory with two balls to spare.
“Those kind of situations is what he’s made for and I’m delighted for him,” said Buttler of England’s 2019 50-over World Cup final hero. “While he’s at the crease, that gives you a sense of calm.
“He can play a lot of roles. He effects the game in all three facets. He’s a proper competitor. Getting to this stage of the competition is where you just see him grow and grow.”
Buttler (28 off 23 balls) and Alex Hales (47 off 30) got England off to a flyer but both perished to Wanindu Hasaranga, who alongside Dhananjaya de Silva and Maheesh Theekshana stifled the scoring.
The spin trio conceded just 69 across a combined 12 overs, with several England batters guilty of some rash stroke-play on a used pitch.
Also counting against England in their chase was that in five previous matches on this ground at this tournament, no team had prevailed batting second.
“I’m not a great watcher to be honest so I didn’t enjoy that much but we knew we had to find a way to win, so thankfully we did that,” added Buttler at the presentation ceremony.
England, who go through alongside New Zealand in their group after knocking out tournament hosts and defending champions Australia on net run-rate, will likely face India in Adelaide on Thursday.
Malan is already a doubt after pulling up sharply while chasing the ball in the outfield in the 15th over of Sri Lanka’s innings before walking off gingerly, and he did not bat in England’s chase.
In the next over, Adil Rashid equalled the record for most T20 wickets by an Englishman, moving level with Chris Jordan, who took the catch running in from the boundary to see off Pathum Nissanka.
The Sri Lanka opener made a fast start and his 67 off 45 balls formed the backbone of his side’s 141 for eight, although they lost five for 25 in the last five overs as their innings ran out of steam.
Rashid, who finished with impeccable figures of 4-0-16-1 while Mark Wood chipped in with three for 26, had gone four innings without a wicket but the leg-spinner insisted there was no undue concern.
“Not really,” he said. “As long as we’re winning as a team. It’s very rare that you ever go through every game getting wickets or runs. You’ve got to take (the rough) as well.”
Rashid would have been in the wickets column sooner but good friend Moeen Ali put down a simple chance in England’s 20-run victory over New Zealand in Brisbane on Tuesday.
“We had a bit of a laugh about it, especially because we won,” said Rashid. “It would have been nice to get a wicket but those things happen. Nobody means to drop catches whoever it is.”
Sri Lanka head coach Chris Silverwood, who was sacked from the same role by England in April after a heavy Ashes defeat, tipped Stokes to shine for the remainder of the tournament.
“It’s all about peaking at the right time so watch this space – you can never rule him out,” said Silverwood.
As for how it felt to be in the opposite dugout to England, Silverwood added: “I don’t feel anything to be honest. It’s not my concern. To me it was just another game.”