CWC: Stokes steers England to opening success
PUBLISHED: 20:52 30 May 2019 | UPDATED: 20:52 30 May 2019
PA Wire/PA Images
England all-rounder Ben Stokes graced the opening game of the World Cup with an astonishing one-handed catch fit for any occasion and then admitted his heroics were only needed after an error of judgement.
Stokes enjoyed an unforgettable day in front of a sold out Oval crowd, top-scoring with 89 as the hosts posted 311-8 and wrapping up a 104-run with two wickets in as many balls.
But none of his exploits with bat or ball will live as long in the memory as his inspired leap at deep midwicket, throwing himself up and backwards to complete an incredible dismissal of Andile Phehlukwayo.
On day one of a six-week journey it already looks like he has produced one of the tournament's defining moments, but the 27-year-old was quick to confess all had not gone to plan.
"I had a little bit of a panic on to be honest, I was a little bit further in than I should have been," he said.
"I was actually in the wrong position. It would have been a regulation catch if I was in the right place. It's one of those that sticks or doesn't."
Former England spinner Graeme Swann told ESPN it was the "best catch I've seen in the flesh" but there was no such superlatives from Stokes' current team-mates.
Moeen Ali, speaking with a broad smile, said: "He ran in for no reason...he screwed it up!".
Captain Eoin Morgan concurred, adding: "He misjudged it at the start. I thought it was going to be way over his head.
"He's had a full day out today and when he does it's extremely entertaining. It's great for the game. You just shake your head at it because it doesn't happen every day.
"His all-round game was on here and that's great for us."
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Reflecting on the moment he turned to stare at the rapturous fans just yards away, arm raised in triumph, Stokes explained: "The crowd's reaction behind me was pretty awesome - I just tried to take that in as much as I could.
"I bowled the next over and Morgs had to come to me and ask if everything was alright, if my heart rate had gone down. Things like that catch do get you fizzed up.
"The crowd were phenomenal which is the best thing about having a home World Cup."
With the benefit of hindsight England's first-innings efforts were comfortably enough given the potency of an attack led in style by four-cap newcomer Jofra Archer.
Having lost the toss they found the pitch ill-suited to the kind of batting that brings monster totals but Stokes' responsible knock and half-centuries from Jason Roy, Joe Root and Morgan still saw them past 300.
Archer rammed home the advantage with a pacy new-ball spell, during which he forced Hashim Amla to retire hurt after striking him on the helmet before dismissing Aiden Markram and Faf Du Plessis.
He finished with 3-27 and looks well placed to deliver on the huge expectations that have been placed on his shoulders.
"I've faced him in the nets and he's the fastest I've ever faced. He's unbelievable," said Moeen. "Jofra is amazing to have in this side. He just makes good batters do different things."
Amla departed in clear discomfort but later returned to complete his innings after passing concussion protocols.
"You're always a bit worried for the person who gets hit. It was a very quick delivery," said Moeen.
"I was a little surprised he came back out but obviously he must have passed the test to come out.
"We hope he's okay and fit enough to play for the rest of the tournament. It was a rapid delivery out of nowhere. That particular delivery was very fast."