Ben Stokes: Brutal Deluxe

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There are times for thoughtful analysis and there are times for giddy enthusiasm. Today is clearly the latter.

At the peak of his powers, if you said the name ‘Flintoff’ to someone during a match with the right look in your eye, that person would immediately drop whatever they were doing and rush to the TV because no-one wanted to miss a moment of one of his innings. Already, Ben Stokes seems like Flintoff Deluxe – Brutal Deluxe, if you will.

In this Test, Stokes made 193 runs off 186 balls, hit 30 fours and four sixes. He emerged at 30-4 and at 232-4 and had a massive impact in both situations. He has achieved the impossible and made the arrival of Jos Buttler feel like something of an anticlimax.

A mechanical watch is full of all sorts of sprockets and cogs and springs and screws and when all those components are correctly positioned, everything works satisfyingly smoothly. But then there are other devices, like hammers, which do the job for which they are intended equally well without requiring all that complexity.

Stokes is very much a hammer. Not many of his shots go behind square and each makes a clean percussive sound you rarely hear even in this era of power hitting. This is a batsman who hits the ball with the middle of the bat and propels it forwards. That’s his method and may he never complicate it.

Kudos to Alastair Cook as well. He was there before Stokes and he was there afterwards. It was his day too.

If Stokes enjoyed himself in the afternoon, the morning was no time for fun. There was work to be done. The lawn needed mowing, the dishes needed doing, the laundry needed hanging out. It was only once all those jobs had been ticked off that England could relax and start enjoying themselves. Suppose that’s teamwork or summat.


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  1. Flintoff started as a batsman who could bowl a bit and ended as a bowler who could slog.

    Let’s hope Stokes is treated as a batsman and that England don’t rely on his bowling until it improves.

    1. To be fair, it sounds like he was bowling quite venomously, and had it not been for some muppet dropping a couple he’d have had better returns.

      What England don’t really have, interestingly, is someone who can keep things tight, tie the opposition down. Jimmy can, Broad can occasionally, but they’re your opening bowlers and you want to save them for that. Wood’s an attacking option. Moeen’s an attacking spinner. Stokes is an attacking part-timer.

      No Vettori, no Shane Watson, no Swann on an inactive pitch. No way of making the opposing batsman so frustrated that he acts like a cretin and chucks his wicket away. That may be a problem.

      In fact, the man who does everything may be their best bet.

  2. Yesterday, KC, you wrote correctly that “a large part of being an international batsman is simply the avoidance of knobheadish shots.”

    Stokes made several knobheadish shots today. He just made them well enough to be an international batsman.

  3. Ben Stokes did well, and has had a good career so far. But to see Brutal Deluxe being thrown around so casually is disappointing. Surely Ben has to score 73000 more test runs and take 896 wickets before that adjective can even be whispered?

  4. Speedball was never a real game, but Speedball 2 definitely was. Fact!

    Also in other news I have never noticed how gangly Cook is when he runs. It’s amazing! I have more fun watching him run singles than I do him hitting boundaries.

  5. In other, other news my comment has coincided with Cook getting out. Sorry about that. Perhaps I deserve a Revolver to the head?

    1. The Sean of the Dead vinyl throwing scene really missed a moderately funny joke there

    2. No revolver needed. The morning really couldn’t have gone better for England. Had it been up to Cook, we’d have batted for a bit longer before thinking about declaring, then had a think about declaring for a few overs, then thought that we should probably declare in a bit, then waited for a couple more overs just to be sure. Then we’d have had tea, and New Zealand would have had one session in which to score 500 runs.

      As it is, we have a reasonable chance to win and NZ have a slightly lower chance to win, so the odds are marginally in our favour, which ought to be the absolute definition of a declaration decision.

    3. It did feel awful watching Broad bat though. It is exactly how I would bat. Backing away, ducking under bouncers (well in my case I would just have been hit repeatedly) and swiping at anything with luck my weapon of choice.

      It was harrowing stuff, like watching the kerb scene in American History X on repeat.

  6. Wicket!

    We’re the greatest team in the world! Never mind anybody else! Shove it up yours!

    1. Bert couldn’t have been more right. My ability to get Cook out has put us in charge! Well done Bert, well done telekinesis of telepathy or whatever power I am claiming to have.

    2. It’s not really on that Broad doesn’t turn round to appeal for LBWs anymore, no matter how plumb they look. Thoughts?

    3. It’s not so much ‘any more’ as ‘again’. He always used to do that, but he got slagged off and then started behaving himself.

    4. He didn’t need to appeal those two, they both just walked. Perhaps that’s what we need to install in opposition batsmen, if Broad hits you on the pad you walk. Professional courtesy.

    5. Whilst I meant instil in the previous comment, I think install works rather nicely, as though we could create automaton opposition batsmen all walking in unison.

    6. Daisy and I had only just recovered the powers of speech from yesterday, when Kiwi wickets started to tumble.

      As for Stuart Broad’s lack of appealing, perhaps it’s simply that he can’t spake. None of us can.

    7. I’m spaking quite loudly, myself. EN-GER-LAAAAAND! EN-GER-LAAAAAAAND!

      Sorry, I think I must have caught a bit of football somewhere.

  7. Huzzah! (which is what I’m sure Balladeer meant to say)

    Marvellous effort that. Some properly aggressive bowling in the second innings. Two hat-trick balls to get excited about. Top class test match fields. The last pair nicking through the gap in a 4-slip / silly point field, then next ball chipping to silly point (who had been moved to fifth slip to plug the gap).

    All in all, a quality start to the summer. Bring on the Aussies, who have literally NO CHANCE of winning now.

  8. Also, it seems we’re about to appoint Trevor Bailey as England coach. This seems a little odd to me. I would have associated him with a bygone era in cricket. And him being dead as well, although I wonder if this isn’t an advantage in some respects, like it being harder for him to become embroiled in personality clashes, for example.

    1. I’m looking forward to seeing how he integrates clockwork based innovations into the England setup.

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