Ben Stokes admitted his first reaction to hitting England’s highest one-day score was an apology to the man whose record he broke, Jason Roy.
Stokes smashed 182 as England romped to victory in the third ODI against New Zealand, with the entire touring side mustering just five more runs between them chasing 369.
For the 32-year-old Test captain the explosive innings was an thrilling vindication of his decision to come out of retirement and return to the fold ahead of next month’s World Cup defence in India.
As he smashed nine sixes and 15 fours over the course of 124 deliveries it was almost hard to imagine England going into battle without him.
But while head coach Matthew Mott and captain Jos Buttler must have been thanking their lucky stars the middle-order match-winner was back in business, Stokes himself made a beeline for Roy.
The opening batter missed out on a planned comeback after a being laid low by back spasms, confining him to a watching brief as Stokes leapfrogged the 180 Roy made in Melbourne in 2018.
After more than five years in top spot, Roy was passing over the crown and smiled broadly as he clapped his team-mate’s achievement.
“I just apologised to Jase upstairs,” Stokes said.
They're still mates! 😅 ❤️
— England Cricket (@englandcricket) September 13, 2023
“He said ‘well done’ and I said ‘sorry’. I don’t think there was too much to it. He’ll be pretty happy he’s seen one of his team-mates, who he’s played a lot of cricket with, take that off him.
“But individual stuff like that I’m not too fussed about. I didn’t really know I’d done it until the bloke on the tannoy started announcing it and then I got out next ball. It was his fault!”
While Stokes was not inclined to talk up his own efforts, he did admit to a sense of satisfaction at spending an extended period in the middle and setting his side on the path to a handsome victory.
The winning margin of 181, one run less than his own personal score, said the rest.
“It’s good to come back in after a while out and put a big contribution into us winning the game,” he said.
“I think today was good for me, to get familiarity again with how 50-over cricket goes. To get that game awareness, game smartness.
“There was a couple of times I had to check myself – I looked up and there was still 23, 24 overs left. That’s how one-day cricket goes, you can find yourself going pretty well and you want to keep going but you look up at the scoreboard and have to drag yourself back.”
Buttler was happy with the way England responded to an early double from Trent Boult, who dismissed Jonny Bairstow with the opening ball of the day and followed up by dismissing Joe Root cheaply.
“We were tested losing two early wickets but it’s exactly what I wanted us to do, take more risks, be more on the front foot,” he told BBC’s Test Match Special.
“Ben’s played a few good ones, but to make the highest one-day score for England, that was amazing.”
The game was over as a contest long before the end came, Chris Woakes taking three for 31 in a clinical new-ball burst alongside Reece Topley. The pair made up amply for the continued absence of Mark Wood and Adil Rashid from the bowling ranks, shutting down the Kiwis response early on.
“I was absolutely delighted with that, I haven’t seen as good new-ball bowling in white-ball cricket for a while,” said Buttler.
“It was a fantastic opening spell.”
The series concludes at Lord’s on Friday before the rivals meet again in the World Cup curtain-raiser in Ahmedabad just over two weeks later.
With that contest in mind, Kiwi coach Gary Stead noted drily: “I don’t mind watching Ben Stokes. I’d rather he scored his runs now than on October 5.”