The Kiwi who could stop the Black Caps

England's Ben Stokes celebrates after they defeated Sri Lanka by 10 runs. Photo / AP
England's Ben Stokes celebrates after they defeated Sri Lanka by 10 runs. Photo / AP

England are being careful what they say ahead of Thursday's World T20 semi-final against New Zealand, the tournament's only unbeaten team.

But the facts can be stated without inviting accusations of hubris, and Kiwi-born Ben Stokes is aware of them.

"We played them in a warm-up game [in Mumbai] and beat them, so we'll take confidence from that, and obviously we beat them in our English summer. We know if we can play to our capabilities, like we did against Sri Lanka, then no matter who we face we'll give any team a good run.

On top of that, England will be playing their third successive game at Delhi's Feroz Shah Kotla stadium; for the New Zealanders, by contrast, it will be a fifth different venue in five games.

"This is our third game there so you could say it's like a home game, even though it's in India," said Stokes.

"It's been strange. We lost the first game and didn't play as well as we wanted to. There was a bit of emotion after losing that, then getting whacked all around the ground for 230 against South Africa.

It wasn't looking great to start off with.

"But ever since then we've come back really strong, and it's amazing the group of players we've got have managed to come so far and get to a semi-final.'

Few performances have summed up England's willingness to muck at the tournament better than Stokes against Sri Lanka on Sunday.

Arriving in the middle in the last over of the innings, he swatted his only delivery - England's last - over cow corner off Thisara Perera for six.

Stokes then ran out Lahiru Thirimanne to reduce the Sri Lankans to 15 for 4, and caught the destructive Chamara Kapugedera at deep backward square - a perilously high catch that demanded both technique and nerves - to end a stand of 80 with Angelo Mathews.

Finally, with Mathews needing 15 off the last over to deny England a place in the semi-finals, Stokes kept his cool to concede only four.

If Mathews's hamstring problem hampered his ability to swing hard and turn ones into twos, then the Sri Lankan captain was generous enough to praise Stokes's nerve after the game.

Six-hitter, gun-fielder, death bowler: on Saturday, Ben Stokes made a little go a long way.

"I was pleased with my overall game," he said. "I said afterwards that I'd much rather be doing that last-over thing than watching and hoping whoever bowl it gets us through.

"I'd rather be the man doing it: it's a lot easier on the nerves. It sounds silly to say when you're the person doing it, but I'm not very good watching in tight situations like that.

'I just love being involved in the game and the high-pressure situations, and it probably brings the best out of me. Hopefully we don't get it down that tight again, especially after the start we got. But I enjoy getting put into the big moments in games.'

If Stokes is revelling in the chance to influence matches whichever way he can, he can hardly be blamed.

After missing the 2014 World Twenty20 because he had damaged his wrist punching a locker in the Caribbean, then failing to make the cut for the 50-over World Cup in 2015, he is finally playing in his first global tournament. And he is not about to go home without trying to make the most of it.

"Twenty20 is generally the fun side of cricket," he said. "You've also got to have a sense of humour. Some days you can turn up and get whacked. Next game, you turn up, bowl the same and don't go for many runs.

"It's been enjoyable, and obviously it's a massive help when you're winning and you get through to the semis.'

And, for those who believe in omens, Stokes has noted the words of Paul Collingwood, a member of their back-room staff who remains the only England captain to have lifted a World Cup - the World Twenty20 in 2010.

"It would be nice to win another trophy,' said Stokes. 'Obviously, we've only won the one ICC event. Colly did say at the start of the tournament when we were beaten by West Indies that getting beaten by them was a good omen because it happened to him.

"If we can keep following like that and eventually be the winners, that would be amazing. I think we're one of the least experienced teams out here. We weren't one of the favourites going in. It would be proving a lot of people wrong."

- Daily Mail

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