Stokes back in form, England level series against New Zealand

WILLINGTON: Ben Stokes shook off any rust following an enforced break with his 11th ODI half century as he guided England to a six-wicket win over New Zealand in the second game of their five-match series at Bay Oval in Mount Maunganui on Wednesday.

Stokes only made his return to international cricket in the first match in Hamilton on Sunday after an incident outside a Bristol nightclub last September led to him being charged with affray and being stood down by selectors.

He entered a plea of not guilty on Feb. 13.

The 26-year-old scored 63 not out and combined with captain Eoin Morgan (62) in an 88-run partnership as the visitors cantered to 225 for four in 37.5 overs to level the series at 1-1. Jos Buttler finished 36 not out.

Stokes also claimed two wickets and was responsible for one of New Zealand's four runouts as the hosts were bowled out for 223 with two balls remaining.

The total, however, was never enough for the powerful England batting lineup even if Jason Roy and Joe Root both failed to get into double figures.

Morgan, who was dropped on 27 by wicketkeeper Tom Latham and then Henry Nicholls at midwicket on 40, brought up his 35th half century before he hit a return catch to Colin Munro.

"We wanted to come back strong after the defeat in the first game," said man-of-the-match Stokes.

"We thought we let ourselves down in the first game and the lads showed that with the intensity in the field.

"It's good to get out here and train and implement it in the games. I wanted to make sure I was in the end and it was a good stepping stone for the games coming up."

New Zealand struggled throughout their entire innings in the face of some superb England fielding, with Roy taking two brilliant diving catches.

They had slumped to 108 for six after 30 overs, despite Martin Guptill scoring 50, his 34th ODI half century.

All-rounder Mitchell Santner, who hit the winning runs on Sunday, however notched his first half century and finished 63 not out while Colin de Grandhomme added 38 as the lower order ensured they made the final over.

"We raised our level of intensity, especially with the first 10 overs with the ball and that was backed up in the field," England captain Eoin Morgan said.

"It was as good a performance we could have hoped for in the field."

The third match is in Wellington on Saturday.