5 Oct 2023

Injury hits Stokes ahead of World Cup opener against Black Caps

5:58 am on 5 October 2023
Ben Stokes of England.

Ben Stokes of England. Photo: Photosport

Rising England batting star Harry Brook looks set to make his World Cup debut in the tournament opener against the Black Caps as a replacement for injured match-winner Ben Stokes.

Stokes, who reversed his shock one-day retirement to return to the squad, has not yet been ruled out of what would be a re-match of the 2019 final but captain Jos Buttler revealed the flamboyant allrounder was in doubt for Thursday night's match in Ahmedabad.

"He's got a slight niggle with his hip. Fingers crossed that it will be good news for us," Buttler told reporters at the Narendra Modi Stadium,

"He's working hard with the physios and we'll know more when the guys arrive for training (later) today."

Test captain Stokes, who has long been nursing a troublesome knee, is back in the one-day setup purely as a batter and his record-breaking 182 during the victorious ODI home series against New Zealand last month proved what he is capable even in a reduced role.

England are naturally wary of rushing him so early in a six-week long tournament.

"We'll make the right call here - if he's not fit to play, he's not fit to play," Buttler said.

"It's not the time to take big risk on someone at the start of the tournament."

Harry Brooke in action for England.

Harry Brooke in action for England. Photo: Photosport

Brook, an automatic pick in England's test side and part of their T20 World Cup winning team last year, is likely to be the beneficiary of Stokes' struggles.

England sacrificed opener Jason Roy to accommodate Brook, who has been marked out as a future superstar of the game because of his explosive batting.

"Harry, we all know, what a fantastic player he is. The start of his international career has been outstanding in T20 cricket and in the test format," Buttler said.

"He has not played loads of ODI cricket but it's a format that should suit him perfectly.

"It would allow him to bat for a long time and make big runs and that's something he enjoys doing.

"He's got all the shots. We know from test cricket, he can play big innings. So it's a format that should suit him really well."

Black Caps weakened

Stand-in New Zealand captain Tom Latham confirmed veteran seamer Tim Southee will miss the match as he continues his recovery from thumb surgery.

Southee dislocated and fractured his thumb while attempting to take a catch during a one-day international against England last month but was cleared to join the team in India having progressed well in his recovery.

New Zealand are also without regular skipper Kane Williamson for Thursday's opener as he recovers from a knee injury.

"No Kane and no Tim as well," Latham said.

"He's unavailable for selection just in terms of what happened to his thumb ... but he's recovering nicely.

"He's nearly two weeks post-surgery so fingers crossed he can keep recovering. It's a bit of a day-by-day process with him in terms of what that looks like.

"But fingers crossed he'll be available sooner rather than later as well."

Williamson's participation at the World Cup was thrown into doubt when he had surgery for a torn anterior cruciate ligament in April but he has impressed with knocks of 54 and 37 in warm-up games against Pakistan and South Africa recently.

"It's great to see Kane back and to see him batting," Latham said.

"It's like he never left, in terms of batting. It's great to see him moving really well too. He's playing all the shots he used to play.

"To see him back on the field is another stepping stone in terms of where he needs to get to in terms of his recovery."

Latham said his team would treat their first match at the 132,000 capacity Ahmedabad stadium like any other game.

"Leading into a game, there's always anticipation of what it's going to be like. But for us it's about trying to do what we do really well," he said.

"The good thing about this group is that we stay really level and we've done that for a long period of time.

"Even though it's a massive occasion for us ... it's just another game and if we do what we do well, we'll give ourselves a good chance towards the back end of the game."

- Reuters