Ben Stokes’ first international match for England in over five months ended in a narrow three-wicket loss to New Zealand in the first ODI in Hamilton.
Pre-match, Eoin Morgan had looked to temper expectations ahead of the 26-year-old’s hotly-anticipated return, following his arrest in Bristol in September, with realistic aims to avoid putting too much pressure on Stokes.
Sky Sports Cricket takes a look back at how the all-rounder fared despite his time away from playing competitive international cricket.
New Zealand vs England
February 28, 2018, 12:30am
Get Sky Sports Get a Sky Sports pass How did Stokes fare?
Much, if not all, of the talk ahead of the game from both sides was centred around Stokes and whether he would be able to showcase his capabilities with the bat and ball after little competitive cricket since September.
The Durham all-rounder strode to the crease, with England 104-3, but after making a scratchy 12 off 22 balls he was caught off Mitchell Santner.
Stokes enjoyed more joy with the ball, as he delivered around the 85mph mark in his first four-over spell before taking two wickets in his second spell to finish with figures of 2-43 from his eight overs.
The best of the action from the first ODI between New Zealand and England in Hamilton. Who did he replace?
Top-order batsmen Alex Hales and Jonny Bairstow both looked vulnerable to lose their places to the returning Stokes, after the pair struggled with the bat during the visitors’ previous ODI series victory over Australia.
Hales managed a top score of 57 batting at three and recorded three other scores of four, one and three across the five matches, while opener Bairstow also hit just one half-century as he finished with 157 runs in the series.
Ultimately it was the 29-year-old Nottinghamshire batsman who made way, with Joe Root moving up the batting line-up to third and Morgan fourth as Stokes slotted in at five ahead of wicketkeeper Jos Buttler.
But, Bairstow’s issues outside his off stump plagued him once more as he went after a length ball and was caught off Trent Boult for four in the first ODI in Hamilton – leaving the door open to further top-order shuffling as the series goes on.
What happened with the bat?
Stokes was not required until the 22nd over, as Root lay a good platform, and he joined his Test captain out in the middle after a leading edge from Morgan was taken at mid-off.
It was almost a nightmare start as Stokes was put down on two by Boult – who failed to hold on to a sharp return on his follow through.
But, having reverse-swept Ish Sodhi for a confidence-boosting boundary, an ugly slog saw Stokes top edge the ball to Ross Taylor and bring an end to an innings that never had lift-off.
Up to speed with the ball?
Looking to make an impact on the match, Stokes took a regulation catch at cover to get rid of the dangerous Martin Guptill and leave the Kiwis 27-3 in their chase of 285.
In his first burst with the ball, the right-hander continually bowled an excellent line and length conceding just one boundary and only 15 runs, impressing with his speed, despite not taking a wicket.
Brought back on in the 38th over, with New Zealand’s fourth-wicket pair of Taylor and Tom Latham (79) going strong in their unbeaten-century partnership, the former sent Stokes for successive boundaries.
However, Stokes fought back well as he struck twice in seven balls, first outwitting the well-set Latham with a good length ball before he had Colin de Grandhomme stumped to swing the match in the visitors’ favour.
Though he was not called on in the final overs, as New Zealand edged to victory, Stokes undoubtedly impressed with the ball.
What they said
Jos Buttler rued some errors in the field as England slipped to a three-wicket defeat to New Zealand in the first ODI in Hamilton.
England captain, Eoin Morgan:
“I’m really pleased. I thought he adapted to conditions perfectly well, using slower balls well.
“After the first spell, he said he could have bowled longer, but we didn’t really need him at that stage. We needed something to happen (later on), and he’s the kind of player who can make something happen.
“He’s delighted to be back – he’s told everybody that. It’s an awesome feeling, when you’ve been away and you’re back in a fun environment, with lots of good friends around.”
England wicketkeeper-batsman. Jos Buttler:
“Ben was probably the quickest of the lot – he has been bowling really quickly in the nets and it is fantastic to have him back, in all three facets of the game. He is a huge part of the side on and off the field.”
New Zealand batsman and player-of-the-match, Ross Taylor:
“He bowled heavy, (and then) he bowled a lot of ‘change-ups’. He adapted well – along with (Tom) Curran, he was quite hard to hit.
“I’m sure he’ll be better for the hit-out, (but) there are definitely no cobwebs there.”