Ben Stokes has promised to be inspired rather than haunted by his memories of World Cup finals when England launch their latest bid for glory against Afghanistan in Perth on Saturday. Having missed last year’s T20 World Cup, Stokes’s previous appearance in the competition was in the 2016 final, when Carlos Brathwaite hit four successive sixes off his bowling to win it for West Indies. Since that infamous implosion he played a key role in England winning the 50-over World Cup at Lord’s in 2019.
“It was such a long time ago,” he said of 2016. “You learn from stuff like that and use it as motivation to get better and drive you. As I’ve always said, I never let that kind of stuff eat me up. The more you are in those [key matches] and the more you come out on top of them, obviously I think that does give you a slight upper hand maybe on some of the teams that haven’t. I don’t think winning one gives you any favours, I think you’re just used to those high-pressure situations.”
England are among the favourites for the World Cup, and were recently described by Australia’s Matthew Wade as “the benchmark” in the Twenty20 format, but Stokes has ignored the pre-tournament hype. “Going back to the 50-over game, we were No 1 for a long time going into that World Cup and that doesn’t stand you anywhere when you come into knockout games,” he said. “We just want to play the team, play the situation and stay very calm and level-headed, and then move on to the next game.”
Jos Buttler, the England captain, said his side were nowhere near favourites to lift the trophy for a second time in Australia. “Far from it,” he said. “I think we’re a dangerous team and we’ve got a lot of talented players. It’s hard to pick favourites but if you had to choose one it’s probably Australia, in their own conditions and being reigning champions. So far you’ve seen anyone can beat anyone and that will be the same throughout the next phase as well.”
Before the recent three-game series against Australia, Stokes had not played a T20 international for more than 18 months and it has taken him some time to reacquaint himself with the format.
“T20 is completely different, full of energy, so you just need to practise more because it’s such a different type of cricket,” he said. “I’ve been putting some hard yards in in training, getting used to the flow and feel of the game and getting the hours under my belt.”
Stokes also called on the ICC to re-examine the use of sponsored padding on the boundary edge, after Reece Topley tripped over it in Brisbane and sustained a tournament-ending injury. “It’s stupid. You know what it’s like, everybody wants to get their name somewhere,” he said. “But you look at player safety and the fact he’s stood on it and ruptured ligaments and now he’s out of the World Cup – it should be looked at.”
England will find a familiar face in the opposition dressing room when they get to Perth Stadium for Saturday’s game, with Jonathan Trott coaching Afghanistan until at least the end of this year. Trott said he had been “chomping at the bit” for this game from the moment he saw the tournament fixtures.
“Our aim is to be competitive in every single match we play and win as many as possible,” said Trott who is surely unique among World Cup coaches in having never visited the country he is working for. “We haven’t come here to make up the numbers, the players certainly don’t think like that and we certainly don’t train like that. We’ve got some good players and it’s a case of bringing together a good squad with lots of options for different conditions so we can be a force around the world and not just in conditions where the players have grown up and that they’re used to. Hopefully we can catch them on the hop a little bit.”
The job is Trott’s first international coaching role, the 41-year-old taking over from Graham Thorpe after his compatriot was taken ill in July. “It’s a fantastic opportunity for me,” Trott said. “I thought of the times I worked with Thorpey and tried to implement it with these guys. It’s a big leap for me but you have to take the swimming wings off at some stage and jump in the deep end. That’s what I want to do.”