Stokes: Focus no problem for England ahead of New Zealand series

By Sports Desk November 15, 2019

Ben Stokes does not expect England to have any problem with focus going into the Test series with New Zealand as their incredible 2019 nears its conclusion.

Stokes enjoyed a starring role in England's incredible World Cup final triumph over the Black Caps and then played one of the greatest Test innings of all time to inspire a remarkable one-wicket victory in the third Ashes encounter against Australia at Headingley.

England were ultimately unable to regain the Ashes in captivating series that finished 2-2, but Stokes insists he and the rest of the team will be able to put all that behind them as they gear up for a two-Test rubber with New Zealand.

Joe Root's side travel to South Africa in December, England facing the Proteas in four Tests before Eoin Morgan leads them in three ODIs and three T20s.

"When you're touring and representing your country it doesn't take too much to get you going," Stokes told the BBC's Test Match Special.

"The thing about our winter is that it's pretty hectic again, we've got so much to focus on that summer 2019's pretty much been and gone. All the focus in the dressing room is what have we got coming ahead."

Stokes was speaking after day one of England's tour match against New Zealand A in Whangarei, where there were brief fears for the fitness of Root after he took a blow to the leg.

"At one point we were discussing whether he'd hurt his knee, ankle or hamstring," Stokes added. 

"Thankfully it was neither, he just took a bump on his leg from stopping the ball, sort of got a dead leg. It was good to see him running back on the field."

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    Ben Stokes had no regrets over choosing to bat first or England's decision to leave out Stuart Broad after West Indies won the first Test by four wickets.

    England were all out for only 204 after Stokes, leading his country for the first time in the absence of Joe Root, won the toss and asked the tourists to bowl under grey skies on Wednesday.

    They made a better fist of it in the second innings, setting the tourists 200 to win when they were dismissed for 313 behind closed doors on the final day at the Rose Bowl.

    West Indies were in deep trouble on 27-3, with John Campbell also back in the pavilion retired hurt after being struck on the toe in a hostile spell from Jofra Archer.

    Jermaine Blackwood came to the rescue with a classy and composed 95, putting on 73 for the fourth wicket with Roston Chase (37) to set up a brilliant victory for Jason Holder's side.

    Stokes said there was no point in rueing his call at the toss or wishing Broad would have been selected, and he was pleased to see the paceman state he was angry to be overlooked in a television interview.

    All-rounder Stokes said: "It was a very hard-fought Test match. It's always great when games can go to day five. The level of cricket played was fantastic.

    "Ideally we would have liked to have got more runs in the first innings.

    "We got ourselves into great positions at times with the bat to kick on and get 350 or 400, and we weren't ruthless enough. We didn't manage to grasp the game as we would have liked.

    "I stand by the decision we made to bat first. We've got to be good enough to put first-innings runs on the board."

    Asked about Broad's omission, Stokes told Test Match Special: "If I was to regret that decision then it doesn't send a good message to guys who played.

    "I thought Stuart's interview was absolutely brilliant, to see the emotion and desire he still has burning inside him is great to see as a senior player. And it shows he's nowhere near done."

    Root is set to return as skipper when the second Test gets under way at the bio-secure bubble of Old Trafford on Thursday.

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    Fit-again quick Gabriel took 5-75 – giving him match figures of 9-137 - to bowl England out for 313 and leave the tourists needing 200 for victory on the final day at the Rose Bowl.  

    West Indies were in deep trouble on 27-3 with John Campbell having retired hurt due to a toe injury, but Blackwood and Roston Chase (37) put on 73 for the fourth wicket.  

    Recalled batsman Blackwood fell for a classy and mature 95, but Campbell returned to hit the winning runs on a gripping Sunday behind closed doors in Southampton.  

    Holder was full of praise for his side after they secured victory in the first international fixture since the coronavirus pandemic brought sport to a halt.

    The Windies captain told Test Match Special: "I'm really happy. The boys have worked hard and it's good to see it pay off. 

    "I'm happy that Gabriel came back well and Blackwood too. They put their hands up and led the charge. 

    "It was a nerve-wracking start after losing quick three wickets and Campbell to injury. But Roston and Jermaine put on a good partnership and settled the nerves. From there we could build on. 

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    Jermaine Blackwood justified his recall with a magnificent match-winning innings as West Indies beat England by four wickets in a gripping first Test at the Rose Bowl.

    Blackwood was given another chance to show he can cut it in the longest format after being dropped last year and he grabbed it with both hands on a tense final day behind closed doors in Southampton.

    The Windies were set 200 to win a brilliant first international match since the coronavirus pandemic brought sport to a halt, Shannon Gabriel taking 5-75 - and match figures of 9-137 - to bowl England out for 313.

    Barbados-born paceman Jofra Archer struck twice as the tourists slumped to 27-3, with John Campbell also retired hurt, but Blackwood came to the rescue.

    The Jamaican made a mature, classy 95, hitting 12 boundaries before falling agonisingly short of a second Test century - five years after his first against England.

    Roston Chase (37) provided great support for Blackwood, who was dropped on five and 20, and the Windies sealed only their second Test win in England in 20 years the final session.

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    Archer showed his ability with the bat after England resumed on 284-8, making a valuable 23 before he gloved Gabriel behind on the hook after Mark Wood nicked the paceman through to Shane Dowrich.

    West Indies were in need of a solid start to the run chase, but a brilliant opening spell from Archer (3-45) made it very much advantage England.

    Kraigg Brathwaite chopped on to the quick and the tourists still only had seven on the board when Shamarh Brooks was trapped leg before without scoring.

    Campbell was also back in the pavilion retired hurt after being struck on the toe by Archer and Wood got in on the act by removing Shai Hope's off stump.

    Chase survived an lbw shout before lunch, which was taken at 35-3, and Stokes could not take a chance to dismiss Blackwood in the slips, having misjudged where the ball would go.

    Chase and Blackwood ticked over nicely, but a stand of 73 ended when the former fell to a brute of a delivery in a hostile spell from Archer after Zak Crawley made a mess of a run-out opportunity.

    Blackwood played with great composure and brought up his half-century after Dowrich successfully reviewed, having been given out caught at slip off his elbow.

    The tourists needed 57 in the final session with six wickets left and Stokes removed Dowrich (20) in only his fifth over after he had him caught from the previous ball but overstepped.

    Blackwood kept a cool head and looked in complete control of the situation before driving Stokes (2-39) to James Anderson at mid-off to miss out on three figures.

    Campbell returned to join captain Jason Holder at the crease with 11 needed to triumph and the opener hit the winning runs off Stokes to seal a great victory for the Windies.

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