Stokes insisted ahead of the fifth Test at The Oval in July that he would use his time off to manage his chronic left knee injury, which he wanted to “get sorted” as soon as possible. But two weeks later, he was named in England’s squad for their four-match series against New Zealand and in their provisional World Cup squad, having walked away from ODI cricket in July 2022.
Asked on Wednesday night about his poker face while answering questions at the time, Stokes said: “Obviously I’ve been asked a lot about my knee over a long period of time, so I just said that to leave it. I knew that I’d be playing in these games and potentially in the World Cup then when I said that, but it was just the easiest thing to say that and put you [the press] off the radar.”
Stokes was speaking after hitting 182 off 124 balls in England’s thumping win over New Zealand, an innings which broke Jason Roy’s record for the highest individual score by an England batter in men’s ODIs. “”I didn’t really know [about the record] until the bloke on the tannoy announced it – then I got out next ball,” he joked.
Having walked out at 13 for 2 in the third over, Stokes’ innings was the longest and biggest of his ODI career. He said that it had provided a good reminder that 50 overs lasted a long time. “You have way more time than you think,” he said. “In terms of game awareness and game smartness, today was good for that.
“Today was good for me personally, just to get familiarity again with how 50-over cricket goes. We started off and lost a few quick wickets, then wanted to go out and put them under a bit of pressure. There were a couple of times I had to check myself because I looked up and there were still 23-24 overs left – that’s how one-day cricket can go.
“The thing that I came to realise throughout the innings was how much time there actually is. There were a couple of stages where I was scoring quite freely and felt like I wanted to keep on going and going and going, but realising how many overs I had was the big thing for me.”
He said that he has not changed his approach since moving to No. 4, but admitted that playing as a specialist batter over the next few months has prompted a mentality shift with regards to his batting.
“This is the first time that I’ve been clear in my mind that that’s the one thing I can focus on,” he said. “I think over the last 18 months, every day has been, ‘will I bowl, will I not bowl?’ Now, I know that I can just focus on that… that’s my thing for the team now. Having that clarity in my head contributes to that.
“I’d prefer not to go in that early because I want to see the other lads at the top do well. I don’t think I’ve necessarily changed my approach in one-day cricket from all the years I spent at No. 5 or 6… I still think that batting at No. 4, I’ll go out with the exact same approach I had at No. 5.”