Ben Stokes and England claim ‘home’ advantage against New Zealand in World T20 semi-final

All-rounder Ben Stokes has said England’s World Twenty20 semi-final against New Zealand will feel like a home game.

Ben Stokes and his England team are one victory away from the World Twenty20 final. Gareth Copley / Getty Images
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NEW DELHI // All-rounder Ben Stokes has said England’s World Twenty20 semi-final against New Zealand will feel like a home game.

Stokes and company may be more than 6,000 kilometres from Lord’s, but by the time they take on New Zealand on Wednesday they will have been based in India’s capital for 11 days.

England have already played, and won, Super 10 matches against Afghanistan and Sri Lanka at the Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium and feel increasingly comfortable on a pitch that can be tricky to read.

New Zealand, on the other hand, have had a nomadic schedule taking in games at Nagpur, Dharamsala, Mohali and Kolkata.

If there is a marginal gain to be had against the only unbeaten side in the competition, Stokes is happy to take it.

“This is our third game there, so you could say it’s like a home game, even though it’s in India,” he said.

Does that offer an advantage?

“I think it does,” Stokes said. “We learnt a lot from the Afghanistan game leading into Sri Lanka, knowing we are a little bit more used to the conditions, knowing it is quite hard to get yourself in on a wicket like Delhi.

“And also having the experience of bowling here. We know that hitting that back-of-a-length is quite difficult, because it’s quite variable in bounce, some will skid through, others hold up. That’s one thing we’ll take into the game as well.”

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The question of where exactly “home” is is not new to Stokes.

It may not be apparent when listening to him speak but he was born in Christchurch.

At the age of 12 he moved to Cumbria after his father Ged was appointed as coach of rugby league side Workington, a relocation that has proved hugely profitable for both Durham and England.

But he has now played against his native country 10 times across all formats — including eight last year — and is well-versed in downplaying the issue.

Invited to ponder how his career might have panned out had he remained in New Zealand, he laughed and said in his broad northern tones: “I’d probably have a different accent.

“It might have been an option when I was nine or 10 and still living there. But ever since I made a choice of trying to have a career of being a professional cricketer, ever since getting picked at England Under 15s, all I ever wanted to do was play for England.”

Stokes has been seen as something special for quite some time but the pieces have clicked into place spectacularly in the past year.

In May he hit the fastest Test century at Lord’s, against New Zealand, in January he blew South Africa away with a record-breaking 258 in Cape Town and all the while he has been honing his skills as a limited-overs death bowler.

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The latter is a role he relishes. In England’s last two outings, both must-win, he has been handed the final over of the match, giving up just eight against Afghanistan and half as many in a superb effort to close out victory over Sri Lanka.

In the latter game he had also struck his only delivery, the final ball of the innings, for six.

“I’d much rather be doing that last over thing than sitting there watching and hoping whoever bowls it gets us through,” he said.

“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. It probably brings the best out of me in terms of my cricket.

“Hopefully we don’t get it down to that tight again, but I enjoy getting put into the big moments in games.”

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