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Stokes was in fine form against New Zealand on Wednesday, achieving the country’s highest-ever ODI score in just its third innings since reversing its one-year retirement from the format.
With England’s World Cup defense less than three weeks away, it was the perfect way for the man who led them to victory in the 2019 final to once again prove his sense of occasion.
Stokes has nothing left to prove on the big stage, but watching him intimidate England’s opening World Cup opponents with nine sixes and 15 fours sent a wave of energy through the dressing room.
England went on to win by a huge margin of 181 runs, another reminder that when he’s in the team, the whole team walks a little taller.
“We obviously see Ben as this superhuman who can do incredible things. We know he can,” said Woakes, who took over with three early wickets in the field.
“It was great for the band and great for Ben too. He is an amazing cricketer but coming back to the team after retiring, it will do a lot of good for his confidence.
“We always have performance doubts and anxieties at the best of times, so it’s great for his confidence and great for the team’s confidence and belief that we can post huge scores.
“It was incredible to be here and play that match because it was an incredible shot.
“He hit cleaner than anyone. This shows how good a player he is.
Since stepping away from 50-over cricket last summer citing workload concerns, Stokes has devoted all his energy to his role as Test captain.
Working closely with head coach Brendon McCullum, he revitalized the red-ball team, reversing their fortunes in dramatic fashion and playing out a thrilling drawn Ashes series that captivated the nation.
Woakes believes that coming back into the ranks under Jos Buttler and functioning as a specialist hitter rather than an all-rounder is a good move for Stokes.
“I think him coming back to this team is probably a refreshing feeling for him, without the captaincy on his shoulders. Leading the England Test team is a tough job,” he said.
“He probably saw it as a breath of fresh air, to play his natural game and be his natural person, which he always does.
“This group of players who have been on this team for a long time always feel comfortable when we get together.”
England’s World Cup squad have one more match together before heading to India, closing out their clash with the Black Caps at Lord’s on Friday.
There is hope that Jason Roy and Mark Wood will be fit for selection, with both missing for each of the last three matches. Roy was knocked down twice with back spasms and Wood has been kept well in the cotton since the Ashes ended with a heel problem.
Roy, in particular, will be looking forward to getting the feel of batting with the ball. Dawid Malan made 96 in the first match on Wednesday to position himself as a viable alternative and Harry Brook continues to linger as a possible replacement if Roy’s fitness continues to raise questions.
“I think he’s hopeful. So close to a World Cup, it’s a bit risky to throw him into a match when you don’t know how it’s going to go,” Woakes said.
“We’re keeping our fingers crossed that he’s okay. I’m sure he’s desperate to get out of this and I’m sure he’s frustrated too.
“Before the World Cup you want to get some form back behind you and play as many games as possible, but he’s a resilient character; the guys got around him and I’m sure he’ll be fine.