Ben Stokes is no stranger to the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium, having hit his maiden Indian Premier League century at the same venue in 2017.
Despite having had a quiet tournament so far, Stokes finally came to the party to set up England’s win over Netherlands in its penultimate Men’s World Cup fixture.
Stokes’ strokeful century and his 129-run partnership with Chris Woakes for the seventh wicket ensured Dawid Malan’s good work at the top didn’t go in vain.
Once England ran away with it in the last 10 overs to pile on 339 for nine, its highest tally of the tournament, Netherlands crumbled in the chase.
The 160-run win - only the second win for the defending champion - meant England remained in the race to finish in the top eight and qualify for the 2025 Champions Trophy.
Had it not been for Stokes and Woakes’ pyrotechnics, England may have been staring down the barrel in the European Derby.
Stokes took guard in the 21st over after Joe Root’s attempted reverse-nothing shot resulted in the ball squeezing between his pads and crashing into the stumps. At 133 for two, and Malan racing towards his second century, England was in control.
But Malan was involved in a needless run out soon after and Netherlands choked the run-flow to put an underwhelming England middle-order in distress. Netherlands picked five for 59 in the 15-over passage to leave England reeling at 192 for six in the 36th over.
Stokes held one end together and found an ally in Woakes. Even when Woakes was playing freely, Stokes preferred to be restrained. Only in the 43rd over did the left-hander open his shoulders up to dispatch Bas de Leede over the midwicket fence to raise his fifty.
That over opened the floodgates as England added a whopping 110 runs in the last eight overs. Off-spinner Aryan Dutt - who was the pick of the Dutch bowlers yet again with figures of 9-0-43-2 - was taken to the cleaners in his last over.
On either side of a contentious leg-before DRS review going in Stokes’ favour, the left-hander tonked three sixes and a four off Dutt in the 45th over that went for 24 runs. He brought up his hundred by reverse-sweeping pacer Paul van Meekeren in the 48th over.
Woakes went after de Leede in the next over to bring up his fifty and take the target well out of Netherlands’ reach.
The England bowling unit ensured the batting group’s effort did not go waste as it picked wickets at regular intervals to wind up the Dutch innings in the 38th over.
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