England’s Malan scores 96 and adds 199 for the third wicket before Woakes and Livingstone complete the victory.

In a dazzling display of cricketing prowess, Ben Stokes made a triumphant return to the ODI arena after a 14-month hiatus, catapulting England to a resounding victory over New Zealand at the Kia Oval. With his explosive bat, Stokes hammered his way to a remarkable century, eventually amassing an astonishing 182 runs, setting a new record for the highest score in ODIs by an Englishman. This remarkable performance laid the foundation for England’s comprehensive 181-run victory.

Stokes’ heroics began when he strode to the crease in the third over, facing a daunting challenge with England at a precarious 13 for 2. However, he found a formidable partner in Dawid Malan, and together, they stitched a third-wicket partnership that yielded 199 runs in 165 balls. Stokes unleashed a merciless assault on Lockie Ferguson, plundering 56 runs off the 30 balls he faced from the bowler, causing Ferguson’s figures to balloon to 80 runs from nine overs.

From the outset, Stokes played with a sense of urgency, charging down the pitch and cleverly maneuvering outside leg stump to create opportunities to dispatch the ball over the off-side. His intent was clear when he took on Ferguson, striking three boundaries in just four balls during the bowler’s second over.

Stokes maintained this high tempo throughout his innings, mixing hard-fought singles with calculated and dismissive sixes. He smashed a total of nine sixes, with six of them coming in his final 31 balls. Although he aimed for a tenth six and fell attempting it, the sell-out crowd recognized his remarkable contribution and applauded him with fervor. Stokes’ performance rekindled hopes of England successfully defending their World Cup title in India.

Reflecting on his record-breaking innings, Stokes humbly admitted that he was unaware of the milestone until it was announced over the loudspeakers. He emphasized the importance of pacing himself and recognizing the ample time available in 50-over cricket.

While Stokes stole the spotlight, this match might have settled England’s World Cup squad composition. With Jason Roy sidelined due to back spasms, Dawid Malan made a compelling case for inclusion with a splendid 96 off 95 balls. His consistent performances in this series suggest he could open alongside Jonny Bairstow in the World Cup, potentially edging out Harry Brook for the remaining batting spot due to his versatility and Roy’s injury-prone history.

As for New Zealand, their pursuit of England’s formidable target quickly deteriorated into a futile exercise. Chris Woakes’ devastating spell of 3 for 31 derailed their chase, with Glenn Phillips being the only batsman to cross the 30-run mark as New Zealand folded for a mere 187.

In the bowling department, England managed to contain New Zealand despite missing key bowlers like Adil Rashid and Mark Wood. Woakes, in particular, was instrumental in their victory, while Sam Curran and Moeen Ali also contributed with crucial wickets.

In conclusion, Ben Stokes’ scintillating return to ODI cricket left no doubts about his readiness for the format. His record-breaking innings set the stage for England’s emphatic victory over New Zealand, while also shedding light on the composition of England’s World Cup squad. As the cricketing world eagerly awaits the ICC World Cup, England’s prospects are undoubtedly bright, thanks to the brilliance of Ben Stokes and the emerging talents in their ranks.

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