BEN STOKES was delighted to put his Kolkata heartbreak in the past after a man-of-the-match performance at the scene of his lowest ebb in England colours.
Last April, West Indian Carlos Brathwaite snatched the World Twenty20 trophy from England’s grasp at Eden Gardens by muscling Stokes for four successive sixes in the final over of the tournament.
Those are the kind of scars that take time to heal but the bullish all-rounder looks to have emerged in rude health as he struck an unbeaten 57 in the third-one day international against India, then held his nerve at the death to finish with 3-63.
He was not handed the last over on this occasion, Chris Woakes gallantly defending 16 after seeing his first two balls disappear for six and four, but it was hard to look anywhere else than towards Stokes when England squeezed over the line.
The last time Stokes ended a game here he lay motionless on the turf in near disbelief at what had befallen him, but this time it was all smiles following a tense five-run win.
“There was a bit of banter flying round with the lads in the warm-up days leading up to this so it was nice to come back here and get rid of any bad memories from that final,” said Stokes, whose last two overs claimed two wickets and conceded just eight runs. “It was a difficult time last time we came here, put it down to good captaincy from (Eoin) Morgan getting my overs out of the way before the end!
“It was nine months ago so memories of that have gone now.”
Stokes got the crucial wicket of Virat Kohli before the late hitting of Kedar Jadhav (90) and Hardik Pandya (56) took things to the wire and the India captain was full of praise for his opponent.
Amid Stokes’s tale of redemption it is important not to overlook Woakes, who girded himself manfully after shipping 10 from the first two deliveries of the 50th over.
To follow up with three dots and the key wicket of Jadhav spoke well of his character and avoided England suffering a one-day whitewash to go with their 4-0 Test defeat.
“He was brilliant,” said Stokes. “You’re under pressure as a bowler when the first two balls go for boundaries.”