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Stokes relishes T20 ‘final’ in World Cup year

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AHMEDABAD: All-rounder Ben Stokes has said England welcome the pressure of Saturday’s ‘final’ against India as they seek to become battle-hardened for this year’s Twenty20 World Cup.

India levelled the five-match Twenty20 International series 2-2 when their bowlers stifled England’s run chase for 186 despite Stokes’s defiant 46 in Ahmedabad on Thursday.

“In an ideal world we would have loved to have gone into the next game having won the series and it sounds weird saying it, but we got a positive out of losing,” said Stokes, after England fell eight runs short. “We go into the next game with a huge amount of pressure on our shoulders as a team because whoever wins that game wins the series. It’s a final.”

Saturday’s match will again be in an empty stadium in Ahmedabad because of rising coronavirus numbers in India. But despite the lack of atmosphere, Stokes said it was still a good test for England.

“That’s great for us as a team, especially with a T20 World Cup coming up,” said Stokes. “The more pressure situations we are put into as team, the better we’ll be for it. We want to win and we want to make a habit of winning.”

India will host the showpiece event for cricket’s shortest format in October-November.

Stokes said England’s failure in the fourth match had been not having a leading batsmen to attack India’s bowlers in the final overs.

“One of us had to be there at the end. It’s always frustrating getting out and even more when you feel you’ve got the game in your hands,” said the all-rounder. “We’ve got the World Cup coming up and no doubt we’ll be put in a similar situation at some point in that tournament. These are all great learning experiences for us.” Jofra Archer returned his T20 best figures of 4-33 in the fourth game of the series and Stokes said the pace bowler had become a key England weapon.

“He’s a fantastic bowler — he’s got raw pace and a huge amount of skill and he’s really showing that off this series,” said Stokes. “Bowling at the top of the order and at the death, there’s no harder thing for a bowler to do, but he’s prevailed every time.”

Published in Dawn, March 20th, 2021


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