The scope of Ben Stokes

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Ben Stokes batting

If you were to look at Ben Stokes purely as a batsman or purely as a bowler, you’d struggle to see what the fuss was about. Averages of 34.04 and 35.64 are still at this stage the wrong way round.

Taken together, you begin to get a sense of his worth. Going off the numbers alone, he’s effectively two fairly mediocre Test cricketers rolled into one. No side would be desperate to find a place for a Wasim Jaffer or an Umar Gul, but if you could have both and field 12 players… well now, that’s an advantage (because you could just ask Gul not to field).

That’s effectively what Stokes gives you. But again, that’s not really the full story. England also have Chris Woakes, whose batting average is not far shy of Stokes’ and whose bowling average is way superior. Why doesn’t he attract quite so much excitement?

There’s just a sense that you know the Warwickshire man’s limits. Future devastating bowling performances seem entirely feasible and you could certainly see him making a Test hundred. Stokes seems to have it in him to do more than that.

The scope of Stokes feels unknown. England made 312 runs in 38.5 overs while he was at the crease in Cape Town at the start of the year. That is, by any stretch, eye-catching. Whatever he did either side of that innings, very few cricketers in history could have done that.

Today, he took 4-26 and then made 85 after England had flapped their way to 62-5. Either of those performances would have earned him post-match interview obligations. He did both.

There’s also just a touch of the Flintoffs in how he seems inclined to contribute when fans want it the most – such as when England are wobbling. We can’t quite persuade Statsguru to give us the figures, but we suspect that Stokes’ when-people-really-give-a-shit averages would be superior to his overall figures.


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  1. Would you pick him for a supposed world XI?

    I think you could pick five bowlers better than him, but it’d probably involve a really unconvincing batting order with Ashwin at seven and a few too many tailenders. You could easily pick six more consistent batsmen but since Williamson got called for throwing none of them can bowl.

    I’d probably play him and then use him in the field at short cover to try and aggro out a wicket if I needed one. Or to use the common vernacular, to Make Things Happen. This is a man who breaks his wrist punching steel lockers when he’s frustrated. He gives you a lot.

  2. Potentially Stokes is going to be way better than Flintoff if he stays fit, keen and sane.

    Freddie ended his test career with a slightly worse batting average than young Stokes’s today, together with a slightly better bowling average, although similar (lesser) strike rate.

    But Stokes is only 25 years old and has already reached giddy heights of match-winning.

    When Freddie was 25, he’d only made one ton (against the Kiwis) and a couple of fifties. Ben Stokes has made 3 and 6 respectively (one the stunning double referred to above and one the match-winning hundred against the Kiwis at Lord’s that will live long in Daisy’s and my memory.

    At 25 years of age, Freddie was yet to make a test fivefer and (I think) just one fourfer. Stokes already has two and two respectively.

    I could go on…

    …in fact, I already have gone on…

    …but you get my drift.

    1. Really didn’t mean to compare them beyond making reference to that quality of producing performances when people really give a shit. Should maybe have used Darren Gough or someone instead.

      1. Ged is right.

        I reckon Stokes has the potential to be England’s greatest ever all-rounder, whatever that means.

        This current crop contain an awful lot of ‘greatest ever’ candidates.

        For what it’s worth, I also think Buttler could be one of their greatest ever batsmen. One day we’ll look back and wonder how on earth he couldn’t get in the Test team.

      2. One day I’ll look back and think ‘Christ, we had a lower middle order of Ali, Bairstow, Stokes, Woakes and Rashid…and we still can’t fit Buttttttler in at number four’

      3. This England team are very very good, aren’t they?

        Take this lower middle order, add in that we have Cook still opening the batting and Jimmy (when healthy) still opening the bowling, and this is actually a pretty special moment in time.

        I note that Stuart Broad, despite his Test high score, no longer gets counted much in these lower middle order batting discussions – he is becoming the Dizzy de nos jours, albeit whose big knock came early rather than late in his career.

      4. Stokes seems to have the capability to change the course of a Test match solely with his batting like Pietersen. He also plays with a very straight bat, probably one of the straightest bats in the English test team currently.

      5. I’m still waiting to see Buttler achieve anything of note in the long form, before believing that his fantastic technique is allied with anything like the temperament needed for Tests.

    1. Only after opening though, so he’ll be fine if he stays down the order.

      Can anyone in Chittagong spake this morning/afternoon, I wonder?

  3. This had been a Test for The Ages, and will certainly be commemorated as such if Bangladesh pull it off.

    The Ding-Dong in Chittagong, anyone?

  4. Stokes is just like Flintoff; plays a serious role one test in five. This can be seen clearly in his test batting record over the last 12 months – an average of 38 which would be 23 without the brilliant 258. Utterly inconsistent. Every serious observer of English cricket knows Woakes is both better and more consistent – and has been ever since he became the best county seamer in his teens. The disgrace is that the selectors treated him as a white ball player when any sane person knew that bowling line and length, and with a classic batting technique, made him much more suited to red ball and tests. Just another case of who you play for being more important than talent in England test selection.

    1. Comparison between team-mates is probably even more unfair than comparison with their predecessors. England are lucky to have both of them.

      Taking out Stokes’ 258 seems to miss the point. That is what he can do that Woakes almost certainly never will. If that earns him a disproportionate amount of media attention compared to Woakes, it shouldn’t devalue the feat itself, which was extraordinary – likewise his hundred in his second Test during an implosion of an Ashes tour and his 193 vital runs across two innings against New Zealand at Lord’s.

      Inconsistent he may be, but those peaks – the scope of Stokes – are why he is so highly regarded. Woakes’ consistency with the ball is a large part of why he is so highly regarded. Thankfully, there is room in the team for both.

      In many respects they complement each other, lightening each other’s workloads and making up for their respective shortcomings.

    2. You’re never going to get what Stokes gives you from Chris Woakes. It’s funny because you kinda have your Mr Consistent in Chris Woakes with bat and ball (for what it’s worth I think Woakes will end up averages of 25 with the ball and 35 with the bat) but with Stokes he just gives you that bit extra, the X factor as Cook describes it, the ability to turn it all around, the ability to rouse your teammates, the ability to completely bat/bowl the opposition out the game in one session, players like this are inconsistent by their very nature but boy am I glad to have both in the side at once, we are truly blessed with our all round capabilities and these 2 for me are 2 of the first names on the teamsheet.

  5. @ Balladeer, it’s difficult because he’s played every game so far on tour so he certainly deserves a rest. Whether he needs one or not is a different question. He has such an easy action and he hasn’t really bowled all that much so I’d probably give him the overs, he’s a dangerous bowler he just didn’t pick up the wickets in this game he probably deserved.

    1. Chris Woakes’ action is The Action.

      People don’t generally go all gooey-eyed over biomechanics, but you watch Woakes run in and bowl a cricket ball and you think: “Yeah, that’s correct. Can’t really improve on that.”

      1. He’s the textbook cricketer. His batting technique is equally flawless, those dreamy cover drives and those solid forward defenses. He doesn’t ever look like he’s putting in any real effort yet he can still bowl 85mph consistently.

  6. And if anyone is gong to be dropped it I think it should be Batty, we’ve seen him, we know what he can do now, don’t give him the new ball and he looks dangerous (when he’s given the overs) in the second innings. Then bring in Ansari so we get a decent look at him. It would be nice to see Ball and to be honest it will likely be Woakes who gets the ‘rest’ out of the seamers.

      1. I heard 3 changes to the bowling attack this morning, Ansari for Batty and Ball for Woakes in addition to Finn for Broad.
        Interesting selection but I’d like to keep bowlers bowling especially when they’ve hardly bowled and look in decent rhythm.

      2. Wait, are we being serious here? With the way things are right now, it’s becoming increasingly different to separate reality from satire.

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