Ben Stokes ‘getting better day by day’ but Afghanistan game could come too soon

Joe Root has seen “good signs” from Ben Stokes as he steps up his recovery from injury, but England’s World Cup clash against Afghanistan on Sunday could still come too soon.

Stokes reversed his ODI retirement to take part in England’s trophy defence but suffered a hip problem on the eve of the tournament and watched the first two games from the sidelines.

He has been building up his workloads gradually and completed running and fielding drills at Delhi’s Arun Jaitley Stadium on Saturday night before a lengthy net session under lights.

Ben Stokes
Ben Stokes has been struggling with a hip problem (Ashwini Bhatia/AP).

The 32-year-old is clearly straining to get back on the pitch, but his movement appeared to restricted at the crease and he did not look entirely comfortable, despite doling out some powerful blows to batting coach Marcus Trescothick’s throw downs.

The temptation to get him back in the side is obvious but, with a crunch clash against in-form South Africa on the horizon next week, England could err towards a cautious approach.

The worst case scenario would see him aggravate the problem against the unfancied Afghans and set his recovery even further back.

“Ben seems to be getting better day by day, he’s trained really well, he’s had a bat and seems to be improving,” said Root, echoing familiar sentiments that have been coming out of the England camp.

“They’re all good signs. As we all know, any team with Ben in it is a lot stronger, but he’s got to be fit to play. We’ll see whether that’s the case for tomorrow.”

While Stokes is still awaiting his first opportunity to make his mark on the competition, Root has been at his reliable best since touching down in India.

He struggled for runs and timing in the tune-up series against New Zealand on home soil – dismissed for six, zero, four and a scratchy 29 – leading to concerns that the team’s most bankable scorer was in a rut.

But he has scotched the idea with fluent knocks of 77 and 82 and credits a switch of mindset with unlocking his form.

“I did find that New Zealand series quite a strange one, I was trying to find something to come to the World Cup with,” he admitted.

Joe Root in action against Bangladesh
Joe Root in action against Bangladesh (Ashwini Bhatia/AP).

“But when you get here and you’re in that tournament mentality of ‘this is what it’s all about’ you need to stand up and deliver.

“It’s a different frame of mind and that really helped me coming out here. You’ve got a real purpose to what you’re doing. I do enjoy playing cricket in India. It suits my game quite nicely.”

Chris Woakes rejoined training after a day off with sickness, meaning England once again have a full compliment of bowlers.
They could go in unchanged following their win over Bangladesh in Dharamshala, but will consider Surrey’s Gus Atkinson if they decided to rest Mark Wood.