Cricket | Stokes savours strong return after off-field issues



England all-rounder Ben Stokes felt very emotional yet satisfied after his brilliance helped secure a one-day international series-levelling victory against New Zealand on Wednesday in his second game back since being charged with affray.

Last September’s incident in Bristol and the legal process that followed kept the 26-year-old out of England’s unsuccessful Ashes tour of Australia.

Stokes pled not guilty at a court appearance last month and made his long-awaited comeback at Hamilton on Sunday, scoring 12 and claiming a couple of wickets as New Zealand won the first of five one-dayers by three wickets.

“It was very satisfying for me. I was quite emotional walking off there at the end,” Stokes said after his key contributions to England’s six-wicket win at Mount Maunganui.

“Even walking on the field the first time and walking off tonight made me understand how much of a privilege it is to represent your country. It was a different feeling to what it is normally but it was a great feeling to be walking off there.”

Stokes claimed 2-42 before returning to hit 63 not out to help England level the series ahead of Saturday’s third ODI in Wellington.

“I’ve been working hard at home making sure that when the opportunity came again to represent England I wasn’t going to let anyone down,” he added.

”Obviously it’s been a long time. Hopefully now this is a stepping stone on the road to trying to keep on helping England win games.

”We’ve got a massive summer ahead and the World Cup coming up after that as well, so hopefully this is just the start of it.

”It was obviously frustrating to watch the Ashes. I went through all the emotions as I would have done playing but there’s not a lot I can change about that now.

“It’s what’s coming up now going forward. As a cricketer, especially as an England cricketer, we’ve got so much cricket to play and there’s lots to look forward to and concentrate on going forward.”

Stokes’ explosive batting, tidy bowling and superb fielding prompted Rajasthan Royals to sign him for $1.97 million for this year’s Indian Premier League (IPL) Twenty20 tournament beginning on April 4.