Panic set in for Ben Stokes before leaping to take stunning catch

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Ben Stokes admits poor positioning caused him to panic before he produced the sensational one-handed catch which lit up England’s World Cup win over South Africa.

The all-rounder soaked in the acclaim from a sold-out Oval crowd following an unforgettable performance on the opening day of the tournament.

After top-scoring with 89 as the hosts posted 311 for eight, Stokes wrapped up a 104-run win with two wickets in as many balls.

Yet it was his inspired backwards leap at deep midwicket to complete an incredible dismissal of Andile Phehlukwayo which will live longest in the memory.

“I had a little bit of a panic on to be honest, I was a little bit further in than I should have been,” said Stokes.

“I was actually in the wrong position. It would have been a regulation catch if I was in the right place. It’s one of those that sticks or doesn’t.”

Former England spinner Graeme Swann said it was the “best catch I’ve seen in the flesh”, while Stokes felt it topped the one he produced to remove Australian Adam Voges in the 2015 Ashes series.

  • 89 off 79 balls
  • 2-12 from 2.5 overs
  • One stunning catch
  • Man of the match

Reflecting on the moment he turned to stare at the rapturous fans just yards away, arm raised in triumph, 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 (Eoin Morgan) had to come to me and ask if everything was all right, if my heart rate had gone down…things like that catch do get you fizzed up.

“The crowd were phenomenal which is the best thing about having a home World Cup.”

Stokes’ initial misjudgement did not escape the attention of team-mates Moeen Ali and Morgan.

Ben Stokes lit up England's World Cup opener
Ben Stokes lit up England’s World Cup opener (Nigel French/PA)

Captain Morgan added: “He misjudged it at the start. I thought it was going to be way over his head. You just shake your head at it because it doesn’t happen every day.”

England’s first-innings efforts proved to be comfortably enough for victory given the potency of an attack led in style by four-cap newcomer Jofra Archer.

Having lost the toss they found the pitch ill-suited to the kind of batting that brings monster totals but Stokes’ responsible knock and half-centuries from Jason Roy, Joe Root and Morgan still saw them past 300.

Archer rammed home the advantage with a pacy new-ball spell, during which he forced Hashim Amla to retire hurt after striking him on the helmet before dismissing Aiden Markram and Faf Du Plessis.

He finished with three for 27, and looks well placed to deliver on the huge expectations that have been placed on his shoulders.

“I’ve faced him in the nets and he’s the fastest I’ve ever faced. He’s unbelievable,” said Moeen. “Jofra is amazing to have in this side. He just makes good batters do different things.”

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