Ben Stokes says high-pressure finale is perfect preparation for No.1-ranked T20I team
England are welcoming the pressure of their T20I series against India going down to a must-win fifth game on Saturday as ideal preparation for the World Cup.
India could mount the same argument, having snatched a thrilling eight-run victory to level the series 2-2 in Ahmedabad on Thursday, built on Suryakumar Yadav‘s 57 off 31 balls in just his second T20I and Shardul Thakur‘s 3 for 42, including the wickets of Ben Stokes and Eoin Morgan in consecutive balls to dent England’s attempted pursuit of 186.
Morgan and Stokes admitted that while it was a big ask to call on the lower order to try and see England over the line – as capable as the likes of Jofra Archer and Chris Jordan are with the bat – it illustrated the sort of tight situation they expected to be put in when India hosts the World Cup in October.
And while sealing the series with a match to spare would have allowed England the luxury of experimenting with their line-up, Morgan said the fact the final match would be the decider was a good thing ahead of the global tournament.
“We really want to play in must-win games like this,” Morgan told the host broadcaster, Star Sports. “They’re the closest thing that we get to playing in a World Cup or a Champions Trophy and against a fantastic side like India, it should bode to be a great game.
“Certainly all to play for. Winning away from home is a lot more difficult than at home, obviously, for various reasons, but to win away from home would be great.”
Neither side has made any secret of the fact that this series – between the No. 1 and No. 2-ranked sides in the world – is all about World Cup preparation, although England would dearly love to add to an impressive record away from home, having won their last five away T20I series. India, meanwhile, have only lost a T20I series on home soil once since the World T20 in 2016.
“In an ideal world, we would have loved to have gone into the next game [having] already won the series,” Stokes said in his post-match press conference. “We go into the next game with a huge amount of pressure on our shoulders as a team, because whoever wins that game wins the series.
“That’s great for us as a team, especially with a T20 World Cup coming up because the more pressure situations we get put into as a team the more I think we’ll benefit from it.
“It is a final because if we don’t win then we lose a series and we don’t want to lose series, we want to win and we want to make a habit of winning them. The more situations we get put into where we’ve got pressure on us and we keep prevailing, that’s just going to do us the world of good.”
Batting for just the second time this series, as questions continue to be asked about how England best deploy him in the shortest format, Stokes fell agonisingly short of a half-century when he spooned Thakur to Yadav at long-off for 46 off 23 balls. His 65-run partnership with Jonny Bairstow had kept England in control of the chase but the loss of three wickets for nine runs in the space of 10 deliveries left them with too much to do in the end.
“It’s always frustrating getting out, especially when when you feel like you’ve got the game in your hands,” Stokes said. “You’ve got to look at these things and assess them and learn from them. We’ve got the T20 World Cup coming up and will be put in a similar situation at some point. These are all great learning experiences.
“I hope that everyone is still asking questions of themselves and I hope Morgs thinks there is more work to do, because that’s how you get better, when you’re always looking to improve. The more pressure we get put under as a team, the more that’s going to do for us in that World Cup because World Cups can end very quickly, every game is a big game.”
Valkerie Baynes is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo