Emotional Ben Stokes determined 'to contribute every time I play for England' after inspiring tourists to ODI victory against New Zealand
All-rounder hits unbeaten 63 in only his second game back for side after being arrested for incident outside Bristol nightclub, which has led to him being charged with affray
Ben Stokes conceded all the emotions of five long months away from the England team caught up with him as he walked off unbeaten after his match-winning half-century against New Zealand.
Stokes, absent since last September after being arrested outside a Bristol nightclub and subsequently charged with affray, missed England's entire winter - including their 4-0 Ashes defeat - until he returned against the Kiwis three days ago.
He was unable to help Eoin Morgan's team to victory then but did so at Mount Maunganui on Wednesday - with two run-outs and two wickets as well as a top score of 63 not out to level the one-day international series at 1-1.
"I was quite emotional walking off there at the end," the 26-year-old all-rounder said after having hit seven fours and a six from 74 balls. "There was relief, happiness - and obviously it's been a long time. It was very satisfying for me."
England declared Stokes available once more only after he pleaded not guilty at Bristol Magistrates Court earlier this month. Within two days, he had joined them on tour in his native New Zealand but sat out the Twenty20 tri-series and returned only for the first ODI in Hamilton.
"Even walking on the field the first time and [then] walking off tonight made me understand how much of a privilege it is to represent your country," he added. "It was a different feeling to what it is normally - but it was a great feeling to be walking off there at the end not out, especially after a really commanding performance from the team."
Stokes spent much of his international exile at home, save for a short spell of white-ball cricket with Canterbury Kings in Christchurch.
"It was obviously frustrating to watch the Ashes," he said. "I went through all the emotions as I would have done playing, but there's not a lot I can change about that now.
"When that opportunity came back round to represent England again I wasn't prepared to let anybody down. All the training and hard work that went into that time spent at home paid off today.
"When I got the nod I wanted to expect to be asked to participate fully rather than be eased back into the team. I wouldn't expect anything less of myself and I don't think Morgy would expect anything less of me either."
It is only a start, of course, but Stokes has big plans for the summer ahead and beyond.
"I hope now this is a stepping stone on the road to trying to keep on helping England win games," he said. "We've got a massive summer ahead and the World Cup coming up after that as well, so I hope this is just the start of it.
"I want to contribute every time I play for England."
He did that to great effect on this occasion, sharing a stand of 88 with Morgan (62) as England chased an inadequate 223 all out with six wickets and more than 12 overs to spare.
Tim Southee, leading New Zealand in the absence of injured captain Kane Williamson, could only give credit where it was due.
"He's obviously a class player," he said. "We know how dangerous he can be - both with bat and ball."
After being named man of the match, Stokes in his post-match TV interview, said: "We wanted to comeback after the first game, we stepped that intensity up in this game.
"Good to get some time out in the middle. Good to get out here, train and implement it in the games, hopefully that's a stepping stone. We keep our chat about the game short and sharp. We showed how good a fielding side we are tonight."
Stokes, who also took two wickets and effected two run-outs as half-centuries from Martin Guptill (50) and Mitch Santner (63 not out) failed to keep New Zealand competitive, might have departed without scoring when he himself was short of his ground as Colin de Grandhomme's side-foot at the stumps trickled wide.
He needed no further fortune on his way to a 54-ball 50, containing six fours and one brutal straight six off Trent Boult, while Morgan survived two half-chances on 27 and 40 - caught-behind off a gloved pull at Lockie Ferguson and then an even tougher one at cover off Tim Southee.
Before then, De Grandhomme's wonderful catch at midwicket as Joe Root followed Roy's early departure off Boult, was at least the equal of any of England's brilliance.
After Jonny Bairstow upper-cut the pace of Ferguson straight into the hands of third-man, Morgan and Stokes seized control of the chase.
Morgan fell caught-and-bowled to Colin Munro before the job was done, but Stokes and Jos Buttler predictably kept the accelerator down.
Chris Woakes had put the hosts in immediate trouble, after Morgan won the toss on a cloudy afternoon.
First, Munro edged an attempted drive behind - much as he had in the series opener on Sunday, but this time from the crease; then Mark Chapman, on his Kiwi debut in this format at number three in place of injured captain Kane Williamson, mis-pulled and fell to a very good running catch by Willey as he backtracked from square-leg.
Willey produced an even better moment in the field when he dived to stop one at point and then flung in the return for Buttler to gather and run out Ross Taylor.
Guptill had to work hard for his 84-ball 50, only to fall almost immediately afterwards to the first of Roy's two catches in as many overs.
He dived forward to hold a flat slog-sweep off Moeen Ali on the midwicket boundary, and then leapt high to his right to hold another blinder - Henry Nicholls cutting Stokes this time.
When Tom Latham then found short third-man off Moeen, New Zealand were 108-6 in the 30th over.
There were three more run-outs to come, courtesy of Bairstow and Stokes - De Grandhomme, Southee and finally number 11 Boult all contributing to their own downfall.
In between, Santner played a fine hand.
Belying his position at number eight, he took on the responsibility to at least scramble the hosts above 200 with his maiden half-century in this format - appropriately in his 50th match.
Ferguson escaped a glaring run-out chance on eight when Roy's failure to first gather cleanly at cover and then hit the stumps was the only blot on England's highly-polished showing.
The ninth-wicket stand went on to realise 69, but it was never likely to be enough.
Updated: February 28, 2018 02:46 PM