Ben Stokes admits he is straining at the leash to get England’s World Cup campaign under way after steering the side to a series-clinching victory against Pakistan.
Stokes kept a cool head to see off the tourists at Trent Bridge, making a neatly-timed 71 not out to bring home a last-over win chasing 341.
That put England into an unimpeachable 3-0 lead and although the job is not yet finished – the teams reconvene at Headingley on Sunday to wrap things up – the focus is fast switching to the May 30 curtain-raiser against South Africa.
“We were talking about this, I think it might have been last night, how lucky we are as players to be involved in a home World Cup and home Ashes in the same summer, it’s very exciting to think about. I just want it to start,” he said.
“We wanted to make sure our focus was on this series and not be thinking about the World Cup and we’ve done a great job so far. We’d love to take the series 4-0 but, whatever happens, it is a clean slate after Headingley and we need to concentrate on the World Cup.”
Stokes was in compelling form in Nottingham, building carefully after coming in at a tricky time before then hitting out with five boundaries and three sixes. His timing could not be better with the challenges ahead.
“It’s always nice to get some time out in the middle and it’s good to take some positives forward with the World Cup just around the corner,” said the Durham man.
“As everyone knows, we generally seem to have a stinker somewhere in a series. This could have been that game for us but the confidence we’ll take from losing four quick wickets then still finishing off the game will stand us in great stead.
“The most confidence I’ll take from that was being there at the end. The one thing I wanted to do and not throw it away when we got to that winning position,” he said.
While Stokes’ return to prime form with the bat was a welcome development for England, he was again a peripheral part of the bowling attack.
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A hamstring injury meant he did not bowl in the latter part of this year’s Indian Premier League and he has sent down a total of just 13 overs in the last four games.
He explained he was currently managing discomfort in his elbow, but put that down to an unusually busy time in the field during the second ODI rather than anything more worrying.
“It’s nothing, just from too much throwing. I’ve had it before,” he said.
“It’s a bit better, the long boundary at Southampton didn’t do me any favours. I doubled the normal throwing workload that I’d do in a game. So I’m just resting it.”
England face a selection poser for Sunday’s game. With the series already in the bag, they could choose to continue their policy of rotating options, but could equally be tempted to give a run out to their first-choice XI.
With the final 15-man squad due to be named on Tuesday the likes of David Willey and Joe Denly may be looking for clues about their fate.
The pair appear to be the likeliest to miss out and would welcome one last chance to make their case.
One change looks certain at the top of the order, with Jason Roy set to sit out to be with his family.
Roy’s two-month old baby Everly was taken to hospital the night before the fourth ODI and although he was able to rejoin the team and score a fine century, the opener is set to sit out with
Jonny Bairstow returning. Everly’s condition is improving quickly and a return to full health is expected.
Meanwhile, Chris Jordan’s World Cup hopes are over for now after the seamer was released from the squad having yet to feature in the Pakistan series.