Ben Stokes century gets England out of trouble against Netherlands
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Ben Stokes blasted 108 as England posted 339 for nine to take control of their bottom-of-the-table World Cup clash against the Netherlands in Pune.
With their semi-final chances a distant memory, both sides still had plenty to play for, with a place at the 2025 Champions Trophy the prize for a top-eight finish, and England had Stokes to thank for their putting them in the box seat.
At 192 for six they were making life extremely difficult for themselves, but Stokes raced through the gears to do the hard work his side so badly needed.
Having ground out a hard-working fifty in 58 deliveries, he exploded into life and took just 20 more to reach his fifth ODI century in a display of power-hitting that helped bring 114 runs in the last 10 overs.
Despite not hitting any boundaries as he dug in between the 29th and the 43rd, he finished with six sixes and six fours before holing out with two balls left.
Coming off the back of five demoralising defeats in a row, Stokes produced a show of skill and character that reinforced his status as his team’s “spiritual leader” – a title first uttered by under-pressure head coach Matthew Mott during his spell on the injured list at the start of the tournament.
Former England seamer Steve Harmison, Stokes’ close friend and former Durham team-mate, called on England to send the 32-year-old home ahead of this match to accelerate his forthcoming knee surgery, but it is hard to see who could have provided the impetus had they done so.
Chris Woakes provided good support as he made 51 in a seventh-wicket of stand of 129 with Stokes, while Dawid Malan (87) was on course for a ton of his own until a silly run out cost him.
England had bossed the opening exchanges, Malan pounding out 10 boundaries in a 36-ball fifty in the powerplay, and even papered over Jonny Bairstow’s sloppy dismissal for 15 via a top edge.
The score was 133 for one when Joe Root attempted, for the second time, one of his trademark reverse scoops over the wicketkeeper. The first one had raced away for four, but this time he got his timings all wrong and was clean bowled through his own legs without even committing a full swing of the bat.
Root has struggled for runs for much of the last month, but falling to a Logan van Beek nutmeg was a new one on his bingo card.
Malan, who had driven expertly and swept two big sixes off Roelof van der Merwe, then fell on his sword in the very next over.
Setting off for a single despite tapping straight to cover, he was sent back by Stokes and caught an inch out of his ground by some smart work in the field.
Suddenly England looked vulnerable again, with the recalled Harry Brook (11) pulling Bas de Leede tamely into the leg-side to fluff his opportunity back in the XI.
Jos Buttler and Moeen Ali followed for single figures, the off-form skipper picking out mid-off and his deputy arcing the softest possible catch to long-off.
Stokes grafted hard to keep the innings alive, getting his eye in before finally indulging himself at the back end.
Aryan Dutt’s last over went for 24, De Leede’s final two shipped 34 and Paul van Meekeren delivered a steady stream of wides as the pressure told.
Stokes reached his hundred with a reverse sweep and finally departed in the closing moments looking for one last blow.
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