A home away from home
Ben Stokes might be on the other side of the planet in New Zealand but he hopes a few familiar faces can inspire him during the Under-19 World Cup.
The Durham all-rounder was born in Christchurch, one of the competition venues and England's pre-tournament base, and spent much of his childhood in New Zealand before moving to England.
So while his England team-mates have spent the last ten days acclimatising, Stokes has been enjoying a home away from home.
“It’s been nice being back here,” the 18-year-old told ecb.co.uk.
“My family held a barbecue for the whole team today so it was good that I could see my uncles and aunties. I haven’t seen them for three or four years.
“New Zealand is where I grew up and learned to play cricket. I lived here until I was 12 and have good memories of this country, but I’m playing for England now.”
After a lengthy journey across the globe – the team left on New Year’s Day and landed in Christchurch two days later – England have been busy preparing for the World Cup which starts on Friday.
Following warm-up victories against a Wellington ‘A’ side, which included Kiwi internationals Jesse Ryder and Mark Gillespie, and Papua New Guinea, England lost their final practice match against New Zealand by five wickets.
“The games have gone OK,” said Stokes. “It could have gone better against New Zealand and it was disappointing to lose to them.
“But apart from that everything is going well. Everyone is really psyched up for it. We are all looking forward to getting going.”
England begin their World Cup campaign in Lincoln on Saturday when they meet tournament minnows Hong Kong.
Two days later England travel back to Christchurch to face Afghanistan before concluding their group fixtures at the Bert Sutcliffe Oval with a testing encounter against India on January 21.
“We know absolutely nothing about Hong Kong. I have played with their captain Jamie Atkinson though, when he was at Durham. He’s a good batsman-wicketkeeper and is one of their key players. We will have to keep an eye on him.
“We won’t be taking anything for granted and will approach the game as if we were playing India. It’s important we get off to a winning start.”
Stokes has been riding the crest of a wave ever since he hit the headlines in May for bowling Mark Ramprakash on his Durham debut.
Since then he was awarded the club’s young player of the year and last month was handed a two year contract.
“Things are going really well for me,” he added. “Getting that contract and being awarded young player of the year at Durham was a real boost for me.
“Playing those first team games last season was really good preparation and opened my eyes to what I need to do.
“Durham is a great place for someone like me as (head coach) Geoff Cook is keen to bring young players through.”