Ben Stokes, the hero of England’s World Cup final victory in 2019, has announced that the one-day international against South Africa at Durham on Tuesday will be his last.
Stokes has decided that representing his country in all three formats is “just unsustainable for me” and he will concentrate on Twenty20s alongside his responsibilities as Test captain.
The game at his home ground on Tuesday will be his 105th in the format, in which he has scored 2,919 runs at an average of 39.44 and taken 74 wickets – putting the 31-year-old all‑rounder 19th on England’s all-time list for both runs scored and wickets taken.
“This has been an incredibly tough decision to make,” Stokes said. “I have loved every minute of playing with my mates for England. Hard as this decision was to come to, it’s not as hard as dealing with the fact I can’t give my teammates 100% of myself in this format any more. The England shirt deserves nothing less from anyone who wears it.
“Three formats are just unsustainable for me now. Not only do I feel that my body is letting me down because of the schedule and what is expected of us but I also feel that I am taking the place of another player who can give the team their all.”
Though Stokes has three ODI centuries to his name he will be remembered for the gamechanging unbeaten 84 against New Zealand in the 2019 World Cup final at Lord’s that hauled England to a position from which they could win the competition for the first time.
Rob Key, managing director of men’s cricket at the England and Wales Cricket Board, said: “Ben has had an incredible international career in ODI cricket, culminating in his match-winning performance at the World Cup final. I know this must have been a tough decision but I completely understand why he has reached this conclusion. It is a typically selfless decision that will benefit England long-term.”
Stokes has not played a T20 international for 16 months, having missed the World Cup last autumn while he was taking a break from the game to prioritise his mental health. His decision means that fitness permitting he will be available for this year’s tournament in Australia – an event with which he may feel that he has unfinished business having last played in the 2016 final, when Carlos Brathwaite hit four successive sixes off his bowling to win the match for West Indies in the last over. But it will also weaken England’s 50-over side as they prepare to defend their ODI title in India in 2023.
“I will give everything I have to Test cricket and now, with this decision, I feel I can also give my total commitment to the T20 format,” Stokes said. “We have made great strides in white-ball cricket over the past seven years and the future looks bright. I have loved all 104 games I have played and it feels amazing to be playing my last game at my home ground in Durham.”
Several players across various formats, including Stokes, have complained about England’s schedule in recent seasons. This summer senior England teams are due to play on 44 of the 103 days between the start of their first Test in June and the end of their last in September, with significant further commitments for training and travel. “It is ridiculous the amount of cricket that is expected of people to play,” Stokes said earlier this summer.
“It really needs looking at from a workload point of view. It is just so much. I don’t want to miss England matches. I want to play as much as I can for England and in an ideal world you would have a schedule that allows you to play everything, but unfortunately it is not possible. The schedules need to get looked at.”