Ben Stokes’ rise in international cricket has been astronomical. He has been an integral part of the English side across formats and has proved his worth in gold. The lanky all-rounder stunned everyone with his emphatic all-round show in the ongoing series decider at Lord’s.
Former English cricketer Michael Vaughan spoke highly about Stokes and was quoted in a report by bbc.com saying, “England have got a freak cricketer. They are very fortunate ti have him because he will win games of cricket in every format for years to come. He might even win this match.”
Stokes stood out with the bat as well as with the ball in the first innings. Vaughan said, “He came out and batted and looked better than any of the top five. He looked in control and played a beautiful drive through extra cover.”
“Not only he is important with bat and ball, but also his body language and his commitment to the team. He’s a real team player and his training ethic, the approach he takes to practice is so important for the rest of the team. He’s a bit of a Jack the lad, he likes a laugh like his fellow all-rounders Ian Botham and Andrew Flintoff. But when he’s training in the nets, he hits more balls than anyone else,” Vaughan added.
The conditions at Lord’s were best suited for seam bowling and seamers were getting immense help from the surface. It was overcast when play resumed after some showers on Day 2 and the ball was moving, which made bating difficult.
Stokes’ belligerent approach from the outset was outstanding. He didn’t shy away from playing his shots and counter-attacked with immense confidence. West Indies bowlers were tightening the noose around England; the batting side needed to break the shackles and Stokes did extremely well in taking on the Windies bowlers.
At one end, Stroke was striking the ball cleanly and going after the bowlers while at the other, Jonny Bairstow stood his ground. The duo stitched a crucial partnership of 56 and more importantly, steadied the English ship.
Stokes walked in when England were precariously placed at 24 for 4, West Indies bowlers were fighting their way back and ran through England’s top-order. Stokes’ primary job was to bid time out in the middle and negotiate the pumped Windies attack. Jason Holder was on a hat-trick and Stokes denied him one with a solid front foot defence.
He drove deliveries pitched in his zone and kept the scoreboard ticking. Although he was lucky to have been given a reprieve on 24, when Kyle Hope almost pulled off a ripper at second slip, but Stokes did well in capitalising on it.
In no time Stokes brought up his fifty, which came in just 51 deliveries with the help of 10 boundaries and helped England inch closer to West Indies total. His innings was more about timing and hardly any power-hitting. Stokes was cleaned up by Shannon Gabriel twice in the 39th over, the first time he had overstepped but returned with a beauty of a delivery to end Stokes’ counter-attack.
Stuart Broad’s cameo of 38 helped England gain a competitive lead in the first innings on this surface, but the foundation was laid by Stokes. He got runs on a surface, where batsmen from both the sides struggled to get going. This was Stokes’ day and he made the most of it by scoring a half-century and picking a fifer in a Test for the first time in his career.
Stokes also recorded his finest Test figures when he scalped six West Indies wickets for 22 runs. His marathon spell in the first innings was a fine exhibition of swing bowling and accuracy. After being brought into the attack in the 30th over, Stokes bowled 14.3 overs on a trot to script history and inscribed his name on the board of honours at Lord’s. He overshadowed the likes of James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Toby Roland-Jones on a seaming wicket, further adding more fire to the menacing pace attack.
With Ashes just around the corner, Stokes will gain massive confidence from this outing, which will boost him do well Down Under. There is a reason why he is called the X-factor in the English line-up. He can score runs, pick wickets, cup fantastic catches and lift the team’s morale with positive energy. Stokes is a complete package and a perfect prototype of a modern day cricketer. Not just Test cricket, he is equally effective in shorter formats as well. To be precise, Stokes’ presence is no less than a boon for any side.
At stumps on Day 2, West Indies gained a 22-run lead with seven wickets in hand. It is anybody’s game and all eyes will be set on Stokes once again as the 26-year-old is having a dream run at Lord’s.