Ben Stokes hits England for six after pulling out of T20 World Cup title defence

BEN STOKES yesterday ruled himself out of selection for England’s T20 World Cup title defence as he prioritises being a fully-fledged all-rounder in the Test side this summer.
NOT GOING OUT: England's Ben Stokes Picture: Joe Giddens/PANOT GOING OUT: England's Ben Stokes Picture: Joe Giddens/PA
NOT GOING OUT: England's Ben Stokes Picture: Joe Giddens/PA

When put on the spot last month about whether he would be on hand for the tournament in the Caribbean and United States in June, England’s Test captain admitted he had “not even thought about that but I’m available”.

It is understood he has had no setback after briefly returning to bowling last month during England’s Test tour of India and there is no lingering discomfort in his left knee following surgery in November.

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However, Stokes is intent on playing a full role with bat and ball in England’s six Tests this summer, the first of which starts on July 10, less than two weeks after the T20 World Cup final.

A busy summer schedule has led to Stokes following up his withdrawal from the Indian Premier League with pulling out of the T20 World Cup in a major blow for white-ball captain Jos Buttler and head coach Matthew Mott.

“I’m working hard and focusing on building my bowling fitness back up to fulfil a full role as an all-rounder in all formats of cricket,” he said.

“Opting out of the IPL and the World Cup will hopefully be a sacrifice that allows me to be the all-rounder I want to be for the foreseeable future.

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“The recent Test tour of India highlighted how far behind I was from a bowling point of view after my knee surgery and nine months without bowling. I’m looking forward to playing for Durham in the County Championship before the start of our Test summer.

“I wish Jos, Motty and all the team the best of luck in defending our title.”

Stokes was instrumental in England’s 2022 triumph in Australia, dragging them into the knockout rounds with an unbeaten 42 on a sticky pitch against Sri Lanka in Sydney and his 52 not out – his first half-century in the format – sealed victory over Pakistan in the final at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

That was the most recent of his 43 T20 international appearances, but he would have been a surefire selection in England’s 15-strong squad.