Ben Stokes gives England World Cup boost by declaring himself fit for South Africa clash

Reigning 50-over champions have lost two out of three matches so far in India

Ben Stokes is likely to make his return to the England team. Getty
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Ben Stokes has given England a boost ahead of their World Cup clash against South Africa by declaring himself fit for the crucial match in Mumbai on Saturday.

England's defence of their 50-over title is in the balance after losing twice in their opening three matches – a nine-wicket battering by New Zealand in their opener, followed by Sunday's surprise 69-run defeat against Afghanistan.

Stokes has yet to play in the tournament – where a 137-run thrashing of Bangladesh provided England with their only victory so far – due to a hip injury sustained in the gym.

“It was a frustrating little niggle to get before the tournament but I have worked very hard to get back to where I am and making myself ready to be available for selection,” Stokes told BBC Radio's Test Match Special before a training session at the Wankhede Stadium that will double up as a final vigorous fitness test.

“We have had a few days off since the last game and first training session here in Mumbai. I'll give it a good push but, yes, I think everything is pretty good. I am in a good place.”

If England lose to South Africa – who fell to their own shock defeat against the Netherlands on Tuesday – it will mean they will almost certainly have to win all their remaining matches to qualify for the semi-finals.

Stokes admitted the defeat against Afghanistan was “disappointing” but insisted all is not lost for Jos Buttler's side.

“We are only three games into a tournament. [We need to] make sure we keep focusing forward,” added Stokes, who came out of retirement in 50-over cricket to play in this tournament. “There is still a long way to go.

“It was disappointing in the moment but at the end of the day we have lost a game of cricket in a World Cup.

“Everyone is going to lose games and it is one of those things we had to deal with quickly, understand that we didn't perform well but move on and understand we have a lot more cricket left to play in the tournament.”

Test captain and team talisman Stokes also dismissed the idea that his return will be vital to England's hopes of retaining the trophy. “No one looks to one person in this team to inspire them or anything like that,” he said.

“It is not a case of if I do come in then all of a sudden we are going to do well. It is just one of those things that gets spoken about a lot but I don't read into too much.

“Everyone that walks out on to that field for England is a match-winner and can do something individually that can win us a game.

“We just need to tone it down a bit on me coming back in.”

Updated: October 19, 2023, 12:55 PM