Superhuman Ben Stokes solid in defence and brutal in attack

Superhuman Ben Stokes was solid in defence and brutal in attack as England’s all-rounder marked his return to the crease with an impressive 82 in 124-run partnership with Joe

  • Ben Stokes made 82 runs on day two in India in his first match in six months 
  • The all-rounder had not played since the passing of his father in December
  • Stokes dominated a 124-run partnership with captain Joe Root before tea

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It was like he had never been away.

When Ben Stokes stepped out to the crease in Chennai on Saturday morning, he had not hit a red ball in the middle in almost six months.

But when you are superhuman like Stokes, your eye is never really out, as he proved by effortlessly putting his old nemesis Ravi Ashwin into the stands with just his second scoring shot.

Ben Stokes returned to the crease for the first time in six months to hit an impressive 82 runs 

How good it was to have Stokes back on our screens – and in full show on terrestrial television, where non-Sky subscribers will have last seen him helping England win the World Cup in 2019.

He had not pulled on the whites since August when England beat Pakistan in their opener at Old Trafford.

Stokes left that series to be with his family in his native New Zealand after his father Ged was diagnosed with brain cancer. He then featured in the IPL in the autumn and in England’s T20 series in South Africa.

Stokes had not played any cricket since the death of his father in December and arrived in India without a practice match to acclimatise

Yet having been rested for the Sri Lanka tour, the all-rounder had played no further cricket since his dad died in December – and arrived in India without even a scheduled practice match for him to acclimatise to the subcontinent conditions. 

It appears warm-up matches are overrated. Certainly for England’s man for all seasons, who has long mastered Indian pitches against the white ball, and is these days unfazed by anyone who bowls at him with the red.

It did not even matter that Stokes was coming up against Ashwin, a man who has dismissed him seven times in Tests – more than any other bowler. Because on his ninth delivery to the spinner, he simply plonked him over his head for a straight six, a shot which was little more than a follow through from a forward defensive.

Ashwin actually dropped Stokes with a sharp caught and bowled chance when he was on 31, just before Cheteshwar Pujara also put him down with an even tougher one at mid-wicket off Shahbaz Nadeem.

He was solid in defence and brutal in attack as he reached his half century before lunch

Yet on the whole, Stokes was solid in defence and brutal in attack – striking back-to-back boundaries with reverse sweeps against Nadeem to race to his half-century off 73 balls. Shades of those famous strokes against Nathan Lyon at Headingley in 2019.

Much like Australia captain Tim Paine in that match, India skipper Virat Kohli had no answer to Stokes when he started accelerating after a patient first hour, leading to him wasting reviews in desperation.

An 11th Test hundred – one Stokes would so dearly have loved coming so soon after his father’s passing – was there for the taking.

But while he threw his chance away by putting another slog sweep off Nadeem down Pujara’s throat at deep backward square, Stokes could not be criticised.

In the Channel 4 pundit’s chair, Sir Alastair Cook said: ‘To play like that without any match practice at all, he looked totally at ease at the wicket.

Sir Alastair Cook said Stokes was showed his development as a player on day two in India

‘It was just Ben showing his development as a player. When he first came on the scene, he had the attacking game but didn’t have the defensive game.

‘But his method has improved so much against spin recently because he can defend the ball so well now. He feels comfortable defending, so can attack when he wants to attack.

‘When Ben gets out, he is the first one on to the computer, looking tactically and technically. He is a bit of a nerd on it but you can see the development in his game.’

Stokes’ 82 dominated a 124-run partnership with Joe Root – and you could see just how much they enjoyed being back out there together.

Before this game, it was Stokes who presented Root with his 100th cap and delivered a heartfelt speech which almost moved his childhood friend to tears.

Stokes (pictured with Joe Root at Old Trafford against Pakistan in August) presented the England captain with his 100th cap

Stokes nearly ruined Root’s time out in the middle when he called for a quick single which should have seen his partner run out on 151.

But even that they laughed off, such is the bond between vice-captain and captain.

And as much as he will be thrilled with his own form, Root knows that a free-scoring Stokes takes a bit of pressure off his own prolific run making.

In a year which climaxes with an Ashes tour, the sight of Stokes strutting his stuff spells great news for England fans – and is ominous for the Aussies.




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