It would be easy to explain Ben Stokes’ disappointing performance in he hit-out for Canterbury on jet lag. We ourselves struggle for weeks when the clocks are set forward or moved back at certain times of the year, so we can sympathies with someone having a tough go after crossing multiple time zones and one international dateline.
Stokes’ return to cricket was highly anticipated, but rather inauspicious outing at the Rangiora Mainpower Oval in the rural outskirts of North Canterbury. Only about 350 spectators showed for the match between Canterbury and Otago in a Ford Trophy 50-over encounter.
Stokes is accustomed to playing on a bigger stage and anyone who still believes that it was a compelling desire to represent his province of birth is labouring under a cloud of fantasy.
Despite what the ECB, and the police, and anyone else in cricket world might be saying, Stokes was in New Zealand for the sole purpose of getting a few bats and bowls in before shows up in Perth for Test three of the 2017 Ashes series between England and Australia.
Stokes had not played in over two months and his lack of activity showed. He scored just two runs and lasted for just seven deliveries. If he can shake off the rust in that amount of time, he should be able to work miracles for England, as the Aussies are clubbing them to death, winning the first Test in Brisbane and giving every indication of an encore in Adelaide.
Stokes’ bowling arm did not fare any better. He failed to take a wicket in 49 tries over the course of nine overs. He had two spells that lasted four overs, and then returned in over 47, only to be whacked for a six by Jacob Duffy, a tailender in the Otago lineup.
The media crowd was almost larger than the watchers, with some Aussie and British journos actually leaving the Ashes to cover Stokes’ comeback.
Otago bowler Anaru Kitchen did not throw the sink at Stokes, but he will recall Stokes’ scalp as the pinnacle of his career.