Monday, 23 January 2017, 09:45pm
Ben Stokes exorcises Kolkata demons with star turn as England edge out India
Last April, West Indian Carlos Brathwaite snatched the World Twenty20 trophy from England's grasp at Eden Gardens by muscling Stokes for four successive sixes in the final over of the tournament.
Those are the kind of scars that take time to heal but the bullish all-rounder looks to have emerged in rude health as he struck an unbeaten 57 in the third-one day international against India, then held his nerve at the death to finish with three for 63.
He was not handed the last over on this occasion, Chris Woakes gallantly defending 16 after seeing his first two balls disappear for six and four, but it was hard to look anywhere else than towards Stokes when England squeezed over the line.
The last time Stokes ended a game here he lay motionless on the turf in near disbelief at what had befallen him, but this time it was all smiles following a tense five-run win.
"There was a bit of banter flying round with the lads in the warm-up days leading up to this so it was nice to come back here and get rid of any bad memories from that final," said Stokes, whose last two overs claimed two wickets and conceded just eight runs.
"It was a difficult time last time we came here, put it down to good captaincy from (Eoin) Morgan getting my overs out of the way before the end!
"It was nine months ago so memories of that have gone now."
Stokes got the crucial wicket of Virat Kohli before the late hitting of Kedar Jadhav (90) and Hardik Pandya (56) took things to the wire and the India captain was full of praise for his opponent.
Kohli was a keen observer of Stokes' suffering at Brathwaite's hand and recognises a fighter when he sees one.
"I really felt bad for him in that final. We all saw it," said Kohli.
"I feel he's someone who takes a lot of pride in his cricket, and I saw the disappointment and sadness on his face. But he's a guy with great character, always fighting to win games for England. Every side is pleased to have cricketers like that and I'm sure it feels nice to him to have reversed the tables as far as this ground is concerned."
Amid Stokes' tale of redemption it is important not to overlook Woakes, who girded himself manfully after shipping 10 from the first two deliveries of the 50th over.
To follow up with three dots and the key wicket of Jadhav spoke well of his character and avoided England suffering a one-day whitewash to go with their 4-0 Test defeat.
"He was brilliant," said Stokes. "You're under pressure as a bowler when the first two balls go for boundaries. It's tough so c redit to Woakesy for holding his nerve."
Woakes offered a typically low-key assessment of his own contribution, adding: "It's not ideal going for six and four in the first two deliveries.
"It was nice to close it out after the lads bowled really good overs before I came on, so credit to them really.
"I got an important wicket and then bowled to a guy who hasn't faced a ball. It's tough conditions, and to get through and get the win in those conditions in front of this crowd, against a very good Indian team is good for us."
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Chris Woakes bowled a brilliant final over