By Mitch Phillips
LONDON (Reuters) – It was one of the most spectacular catches ever to grace a World Cup match but England all-rounder Ben Stokes was reluctant to take too much credit on Thursday after admitting he made it so difficult by misjudging the flight of the ball.
Stokes launched himself high into the air near the mid-wicket boundary, reaching up and back to snatch an amazing one-handed catch to dismiss Andile Phehlukwayo off the bowling of Adil Rashid as England thumped South Africa by 104 runs in the opening World Cup match on Thursday.
The Oval crowed roared its approval at what was a truly memorable moment, but Stokes – and captain Eoin Morgan – tried not to get too carried away when bombarded with questions about it by reporters.
“I was actually in the wrong position – it would have been a regular catch if I was in the right place but, yeah it is one of those that sticks or doesn’t,” Stokes said.
“The crowd’s reaction behind me was pretty awesome – I just tried to take that in as much as I could. I bowled the next over and Morgs had to come to me and ask if everything was alright, if my heart rate had gone down – things like that catch do get you fizzed up.”
Morgan said the only other catch he had seen to rival it was by South African AB de Villiers in a game in Bangalore.
“Ben misjudged it – he ran in, stopped, I thought it was way over his head,” he said. “I don’t know how to describe it – it’s unbelievable.”
South Africa skipper Faf du Plessis called it “brilliant”.
“I appreciate the skill that goes into that but I know how hard he practises so there’s no fluke. Stokes is a three in one cricketer,” Du Plessis said.
He certainly was on Thursday, having patiently top-scored for England with 89 as they posted 311-8 on an awkward pitch.
The 27-year-old then fired in a brilliant long throw to run out Dwaine Pretorious, took another catch and mopped up the South African innings with the last two balls of the game.
“It was a good day – perfect day,” said Stokes, recently returned from a disappointing spell in the Indian Premier League and delighted to be back firing on all cylinders.
“The best thing about being an all-rounder is you can influence the game pretty much the whole 100 overs – it is always nice when you can contribute to the team winning.
“There were a few nerves knocking about today, there definitely was for me – I haven’t felt like that in a long time.”
(Reporting by Mitch Phillips, editing by Ed Osmond)