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England captain Eoin Morgan has heaped praise on all-rounder Ben Stokes following his superb performance in their Champions Trophy match against Australia on Saturday.
Stokes took the important wicket of Australia opener Aaron Finch and followed it up with an unbeaten 102 as England won the rain-affected showdown by 40 runs via the Duckworth-Lewis-Stern method. In addition to winning the match, England also brought Australia’s Champions Trophy campaign to an end.
Morgan believes that Stokes’ stint with the Rising Pune Supergiants at the Indian Premier League (IPL) played a part in helping Stokes build his innings before taking the attack to the Australians.
“The IPL auction proved that every team would want him,” Morgan said, referring to the £1.7 million the Supergiants paid to acquire Stokes’s services. “He’s always looking to influence the game: with the bat, ball, or even in the field.
“Even in the field today at mid-on, he saved a lot of runs. He went through a period today of about five overs where he was unbelievable. He always wants to be in the game.
“That attitude in itself… You know, a lot of guys with potential like that, when things aren’t going your way, go back into a corner. But that’s not Ben.”
Despite conceding 61 runs off his eight overs, Morgan was impressed with Stokes’ eagerness to keep bowling.
“I think he bowled four overs in his first spell,” Morgan said. “And then we went back to him at the end with two of the hardest overs to bowl.
“You know, that sums him up. He took it on his shoulders. He did it at the IPL. He did it really well.
“And then his batting was exceptional. He was very calm at the crease; very relaxed. All those games he’s played really came to the fore today. He was outstanding. His potential is through the roof.”
Meanwhile, Morgan admitted that his and Stokes’ 159-run partnership was crucial in leading England to victory, especially after they had been reduced to 35/3 in the sixth over.
“It was important to get some sort of a partnership going and find a way we were going to negate Australia’s bowling,” Morgan said. “They bowled really well up front. They asked a lot of questions and got the ball moving. They’re a very threatening side.
“But it managed to work. We did it in our own way. We felt, I suppose, the positive way was the best way. And we spoke about how we were going to go about it a little bit differently. The way in which we played forced a few errors here and there.”
While Morgan was over the moon to have eliminated Australia from the Champions Trophy, he played down the idea that this was the start of “a period of domination” for England in ODI cricket.
“I think you’re getting way ahead of yourself,” Morgan said. “A start would be winning the semi-final.
“Beating a side like Australia in a game where we’ve nothing to gain is a big step forward for us because we beat one of the better sides around the world. And if we’re being serious about competing in future tournaments, we need to win games of cricket like this.”