Mumbai, Oct 20: Former England captain Michael Atherton believes talismanic all-rounder Ben Stokes has to play in Saturday’s clash against South Africa at the Wankhede Stadium if he’s fit to take the field.
Stokes, the Test skipper, has come out of ODI retirement to help England defend the Men’s ODI World Cup title they won in 2019 on home soil. But he is yet to make an appearance due to a hip injury as England won against Bangladesh, but lost to New Zealand and Afghanistan to leave their campaign and semi-final hopes in jeopardy.
"Our understanding was that Stokes was very close to fitness for the Afghanistan game but that England were being understandably cautious. He now has to play against South Africa if he is fit."
"He is right that he is not the messiah, he can't just turn it around himself, but he is a very big presence and England are a better team with him in it. The last time he played in ODI cricket he got England's highest score (182 against New Zealand at The Kia Oval last month)," said Atherton to Sky Sports.
With Harry Brook top-scoring with a gutsy 66 off 61 balls in England’s surprising loss to Afghanistan, it means Stokes will come in for an all-rounder. It also means that England will look short on bowling options as Stokes is playing this tournament as a specialist batter, a problem which Atherton foresees.
"I am certain in my mind that I would also play Harry Brook so the problem England have to solve is on the balance of the side. Do they play Liam Livingstone at No 7 as one of five bowlers with Joe Root as the sixth bowler or do they pick two out-and-out-bowlers alongside Reece Topley, Adil Rashid and Mark Wood?"
Moreover, the lack of good performances from all-rounders Chris Woakes and Sam Curran also adds to England’s worries. Woakes went for 41 runs in his four overs against Afghanistan while Curran was taken apart for 46 runs in his four overs in the same match at New Delhi.
"The form of Chris Woakes and Sam Curran is a real concern and they are both very vulnerable. Curran is going at over eight an over, Woakes at seven and a half runs an over and they have only taken a couple of wickets each. Curran has been expensive in the middle overs and Woakes in the powerplay, leaving England chasing the game," concluded Atherton. (IANS)