Ben Stokes, who captained England in their loss to West Indies in the first Test of the series, redeemed himself with an incredible performance as the scores were levelled at 1-1. Stokes, who led his team in the absence of Joe Root, was back to being his talismanic self in the second Test at Manchester.
Stokes racked up 254 runs in the Test match and chipped in with crucial bowling performances, picking up three key wickets as England won by 113 runs. This ensured that the first Test series since the game’s lockdown because of the Coronavirus crisis, was alive at 1-1 with one match to play.
Arise Sir Ben, Stokes the folk hero
In England’s first innings, Stokes make 176, accumulating runs with diligence, spending 255 balls to get to his first hundred. England were able to declare their innings with 469 on the board thanks to a good start from Dom Sibley, who scored 120, but mainly because of Stokes’s marathon effort.
Batting for more than eight hours, Stokes controlled his naturally aggressive nature to compile 176 from 356 balls. West Indies responded with 287 and with a day’s play lost to rain, England needed quick runs in their second essay to give themselves enough time to bowl out the visitors.
Enter Stokes, who opened the batting and cracked an unbeaten 78 off only 57 balls, hitting four fours and three sixes as England raced to 129 for 3 from only 20 overs and declared, setting West Indies a target of 312.
Root goes gaga over Stokes
“He’s Mr. Incredible. I suppose,” Joe Root said after England clinched the second Test against West Indies, referencing the muscular cartoon superhero of the same name. “He looks a bit like him, and will probably end up the same shape too. I certainly think he can keep performing at this level. I think the sky’s the limit for him really, when you watch how he goes about things, there’s no reason why he can’t keep performing this consistently.”
Root, who is among the best batsmen in the world game, but not anywhere close to as explosive as Stokes, was all praise for his second in command. “To have such a complete game, and so many different gears at your disposal, allows you the ability to keep getting better. But most importantly, if he continues to read situations the way he is, and keeps the confidence that he’s playing with at the moment, there’s no reason why we can’t continue to see such brilliant performances as we have done this week, and over the last 12 months really.”
Stokes does the unimaginable, puts Ashes in the shade
When Stokes first made a name for himself, it was with his unbelievable performance against Australia, winning England the Ashes when the series seemed dead and buried. And, with this performance, he showed that there was so much more to him.
“It’s very difficult to compare the two on a number of levels,” said Root after the win in Manchester. “There was the magnitude of an Ashes series – a series on the line, running out of partners, running out of options, everything sort of seemed to be dead in the water – and being able to get us across the line.
“Here he showed a bit more versatility really, within himself, and the fact that he’s more complete player now. I think on a personal front he thoroughly enjoyed this week in a different way to Headingley.
“From a team point of view, it’d be very easy for us to not appreciate how good a performance this was, because of the lack of atmosphere within the ground. Well, I don’t think that’s the case. I think everyone understands that we are watching a player at the peak of his powers, at the peak of world cricket, delivering time and time again.
“We have to savour that, we have to appreciate that and understand that we are – without trying to pump his tyres too much – in the presence of greatness.”
England boosted by Archer return
England’s prospects for the third and final Test against West Indies, were boosted by the return of Joffra Archer, the express fast bowler, who had to be left out of the second Test after he broke protocol and put the bio-secure environment at risk. Between the conclusion of the first Test match and leading up to the second, Archer strayed from agreed upon routines.
Despite being England’s most effective bowler in the first Test, Archer was dropped for the second. But, since then, Archer has undergone two tests for Covid-19 and returned negative results each time. He was obliged to isolate for five days after it was revealed that he made an unauthorised trip to Brighton after the first match. He was also fined his entire match fee for the first Test as a result of his breach.
While the second Test match was being played Archer was confined to his hotel room for the best part, and was forbidden from having face-to-face contact with any of his team-mates or opponents. Once he cleared two Covid-19 Tests, Archer was allowed to undertake light training at the ground where the second Test was played, but only before any of the other players took the field.
“As far as I’m concerned, Archer has been through a disciplinary meeting,” Root said at the conclusion of the second Test. “He’s very aware of the consequences now of his actions and he’s very remorseful about what he’s done. As team-mates we’ve tried to make sure that we’ve been there for him in many respects, but he’s very well aware he made a massive error.
“Once that disciplinary is gone through and it’s been made very aware of what his punishment is, I think now is time for us to look at it in terms of him being available for selection.”
Stokes tops the charts, displacing Holder in ICC Rankings
England star Stokes has outdone West Indies captain Jason Holder to become the world’s top-ranked Test all-rounder while also attaining a career-best third position among batsmen in the ICC Men’s Test Player Rankings, after a match-winning performance at Old Trafford.
Stokes, who trailed Holder by 54 rating points going into the second Test in Manchester, enjoys a lead of 38 points after his memorable knocks of 176 and 78 and a match haul of three wickets helped England win by 113 runs and level the three-match series 1-1.
Stokes ended Holder’s 18-month reign at the top, becoming the first from England at the summit since Andrew Flintoff in May 2006. His tall of 497 rating points is the highest by any Test all-rounder since Jacques Kallis aggregated 517 in April 2008.
Among batsmen, Stokes is joint-third with Marnus Labuschagne, only behind Steve Smith and Virat Kohli and with specialist batsmen like Kane Williamson and Babar Azam below him in the list. His captain Joe Root is ninth while opener Dom Sibley has advanced 29 places to a career-best 35th position after a sturdy first innings 120.
Stuart Broad, who was not picked for the opening Test, returned to the top 10 after claiming three wickets in each innings. He is now England’s top-ranked bowler, one slot ahead of James Anderson, who dropped to 11th after being rested for the match. Chris Woakes, who scalped five in the match to reach the 100-wicket mark, is in 21st position, his highest since late 2016.
For the West Indies, Shamarh Brooks has moved up 27 places to a career-best 45th position after scores of 68 and 62. He is now just four slots behind Holder, who remains the top-ranked West Indies batsman in 41st position despite slipping four places. Holder has also dropped a slot among bowlers to take third place, behind Pat Cummins and Neil Wagner. Roston Chase has gained two places in the bowlers’ list after a five-wicket haul in the first innings.