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Stokes and Morgan put on 159 for the fourth wicket at better than a run-a-ball Getty Images

England captain Eoin Morgan has said the potential of Ben Stokes is “through the roof” after having the best view in the house as the all-rounder’s stunning century helped England knock Australia out of the ICC Champions Trophy 2017 on Saturday. England, already through to the semi-finals of a tournament featuring the world’s top eight one-day international sides, were reeling at 35 for 3 chasing a target of 278 at Edgbaston. But in a match their arch-rivals had to win to join them in the last four, Stokes, with an ODI best 102 not out, and England captain Morgan (87) put on 159 for the fourth wicket at better than a run-a-ball.

By the time a second rain interruption saw the game called off, England were 240 for 4 off 40.2 overs and won by 40 runs under the Duckworth-Lewis-Stern (DLS) method. A previous rain break gave Morgan and Stokes time to assess their approach after a top-order collapse threatened to undo England’s earlier good work in restricting Australia to 277 for 9, with fast bowler Mark Wood taking an ODI best 4 for 33 and leg-spinner Adil Rashid 4 for 41. When the match resumed, Morgan hit boundaries off the first two balls he faced from Australia spearhead Mitchell Starc, part of a sequence of five fours in 11 balls

“We felt that the positive way was the best way,” Morgan told reporters of the chat he’d had with Stokes shortly before the match got underway again. “It managed to work, we did it in our own way. So I did what I do, and obviously Ben’s very naturally aggressive and finds attacking quite easy, he added.

Turning to fellow left-handed batsman Stokes, now one of the hottest properties in world cricket after an impressive debut season in the Indian Premier League (IPL), Morgan said: “His potential is through the roof. He’s always looking to influence the game — bat, ball, or even in the field. A lot of guys with potential like that, when things aren’t going (their) way, back into a corner — but that’s not Ben.”

Australia captain Steven Smith, who skippered Stokes at IPL franchise Rising Pune Supergiant (RPS), added: “I always thought he was a good player. He’s an incredibly strong lad and hits the ball very hard. I think he’s probably developed some smarts… He’s certainly a quality player, and he’s in exceptional form at the moment.”

Smith further said the players let themselves down as Australia got eliminated from the Champions Trophy group stage. “You say that we only had one hit, but that should be good enough for the players that we’ve got on our team,” he insisted. “I thought we let ourselves down a little bit. We got ourselves into a pretty good position early with the bat. But someone in the top four probably needed to go on and make a hundred, he said.

Meanwhile Smith lamented the “freebies” his bowlers had dished out to Morgan and Stokes during a “momentum shift” after the initial rain break. “When you’re playing in a big tournament for your country, you need to step up and get the job done. We just didn’t turn up the way I would have liked after the (rain) break, he concluded.