T20 World cup 2022 England vs Ireland: is embarrassing defeat the moment to move on from Ben Stokes?

Ben Stokes scored just six off eight balls as England lost to Ireland in the 2022 Men’s T20 World Cup.

England were one of the tournament favourites heading into the T20 World Cup in Australia, following a 4-3 series win in Pakistan and 2-0 victory over Australia just ahead of the tournament. However, they have now suffered an embarrassing defeat to Ireland - a team that had to go through the initial qualifying stages to enter the competition.

Now, the humilation England will be experience should be not signal disrespect to the Irish team who, as they have shown in recent matches, are a side with phenomenally underrated talent. However, it was a match that on paper that England should undoubtedly have won. Yet, Andrew Balbirnie superbly led his side to a five run win (DLS method), hitting a stunning half century on the way.

England have won the last five T20 fixtures they’ve played, all of which have been against teams ranked higher than Ireland in the ICC rankings. Ireland’s batters were reduced to 157 - not a massive score considering we’ve seen T20 scores of 200 in this tournament. So it seems harsh to blame the English bowlers for this pretty disastrous loss.

So, as seems the way whenever England lose, we turn to scrutinise at the batters. And while there are a few who should share the cost of this upset, one player has been repeatedly off his mark for a while.

Jos Buttler was out for a duck, lasting just two balls, but he’s proved enough in recent matches to show this was a fleeting blip. For Ben Stokes, however, it’s very much a different story.

Ben Stokes lasted four balls against AfghanistanBen Stokes lasted four balls against Afghanistan
Ben Stokes lasted four balls against Afghanistan

There is no ignoring the fact that Stokes is a phenomenal cricketer and he has saved his team from the brink of disaster on countless occasions. Yet his form recently has been far from acceptable and there must come a point where this is realised and acted upon it. Since returning to the white-ball squad after being rested this summer, he is yet to make double figures or even hit a strike rate of over 100.

Moeen Ali defended the red ball captain ahead of the World Cup following Stokes’ rather disastrous series against Australia claiming: “I think when the big games come he’ll score runs and that’s what you want. I don’t care if he doesn’t score any runs in the next couple of games because once the World cup comes I’m sure he’ll be fine. Even if he doesn’t score runs he’s a great player to have in your team.”

While Ali does make clear the Durham cricketer can do far more than just bat - in fact he’s taken three wickets so far this World Cup - England do not have a problem with the ball and Stokes is arguably not in the team for his bowling anyway - there are a plethora of bowling options on offer for Buttler.

What they are struggling with is the bat, and there must be a point at which Buttler considers another batting line-up could be favourable rather than risking a player who’s 2019 heroics are feeling more like a distant memory every time he swings and misses a ball. Stokes has a T20I average of 18.57 and high score of 47*. It’s not wholly unsurprising his high score is so low given how far down the order he has batted, however, his average is pretty underwhelming considering the weight his name holds in the England squad.

In his 33 innings, Stokes has scored a total of 483 runs. Harry Brook, on the other hand, who bats where his red-ball captain used to in the white-ball squad, has 341 runs in his 14 innings already. Brook also has a high score of 81* and an average of 31.00. So it would appear it is possible for someone to generate those runs even when placed further down the order.

There has rarely been a time when England’s batting line-up hasn’t been questioned in one form or another, and it will return to the spotlight once again, this time in an arguably far more concerning fashion.

Stokes is a match-winner. An Ashes hero and World Cup icon. Can England really drop him? Well, yes, and at the moment they must. He is simply not providing enough support in those crucial middle-order spots which are vital considering England’s penchant for giving away early wickets.

Of course, we then ask ourselves who replaces him? Phil Salt is the most obvious answer, given the options availiable in the squad. And while maybe not a direct replacement, he is far from a poor option with a T20 average of 23.50 and high score of 88* which he produced in a stellar performance against Pakistan. Salt has two 50s to his name in T20I and his efforts earlier this summer also show he can bat throughout the order if Buttler is reluctant to push himself further down.

England face Australia, New Zealand and Sri Lanka in their next World Cup fixtures - none of which are easy battles and they will need all players to be in form - they need consistent performers, rather than pinning their hopes on mercurial performers producing a bolt from the blue.

England have the rare chance of holding both ODI and T20 trophies by the end of the year, but this cannot happen if they wait around for Stokes to return to a form that others have proven they are already in.