England need a ‘free kick’ Ben Stokes to become a contender in Australia again

England’s dreary summer at home with the white ball saw their contenders flee abroad at the T20 World Cup in Australia this fall. However, Ben Stokes could change all that.

The multi-skilled player may have retired from cricket for a day but will return to the Twenty20 World Cup squad once he completes his first summer as Test Captain.

If England need one thing now in whiteball cricket, it’s inspirational leaders after former captain Ewen Morgan retired in June.

Nobody is more inspiring than Stokes, who otherwise would not have dragged England onto the front line against New Zealand in the 50-year World Cup Final at Lords in 2019.

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The Stokes Midas touch has also revived ailing England fortunes, as the 31-year-old’s alliance with new coach Brendon McCollum saw the team win four games in a row in dramatic fashion at the start of this summer.

Given where the T20 are now after a crushing 90-round defeat to South Africa in Southampton on Sunday sealed their third consecutive defeat of the series, it would take a miracle to make them realistic contenders for the World Cup.

Fortunately for England, Stokes is a man who deals in miracles and that means there will likely be a ‘Bazball’ bounce within the T20 once Stokes joins them ahead of the tournament in Australia, likely at the back end of a seven-game streak in Pakistan starting in the middle of next month.

Stokes’ international record in the T20 is modest. He has never scored 50 goals for England and averages 37.73 with the ball.

But in a team lacking in faith and yet to settle down under new captain Joss Butler and coach Matthew Mott, the Stokes injection cannot be underestimated.

T20 World Cup odds

  • Australia – 7-2
  • India – 7-2
  • England – 10-37
  • New Zealand – 15-2
  • Pakistan – 8-1
  • South Africa – 10-1
  • West Indies – 14-1

(best odds available; 50-1 bar)

At the end of a limited summer that saw England fail to win a domestic series for the first time in nine years, Mott admitted that having Stokes on this T20 team at the World Cup would be a game-changer. “It would add a lot,” Mott said. “When you add players like Stokes to any team, it makes the choice a lot easier. You always have a free hit with your team’s credit. Having a world-class bowler in the top four is a huge asset to any team. So bringing him back would set a very different course than The way we can put our team together.”

The composition of the World Cup team may be a lot more than that which lost to India and South Africa last month. Opener out-of-model Jason Roy was notified by Mott when the Australian admitted: “Nobody has a mortgage right away.” David Malan’s place may also be threatened after Mott admitted that Phil Salt and Harry Brook, two sexy young players waiting in the wings, will likely get a chance to participate in their claims during the series in Pakistan. “At certain times, tough decisions have to be made,” Mott said. “Young players add energy. These two are chomping for a match.”

The chances of fast bowlers Jofra Archer and Mark Wood of being fit for the World Cup look slim, with Mott admitting: “It’s going to be a stretch for Jofra. Maybe the wood is closer. Both of these guys we like right now. But it’s out of our hands. World Cup, it should be good enough.”

This means that having Stokes, the man who brings out the best in everyone around him, will be even more important.

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