Ben Stokes, the ultimate team man
Most of us have that one friend, who we know, will even take a bullet for us. For England, Ben Stokes is that all-weather friend.
It has now been proven beyond argument that Stokes is the crisis man for England. Be it dropping anchor in the World Cup group encounter against Australia or taking them over the line in the final, saving them embarrassment of a meek Ashes defeat at Headingley or propping up their total in the recent New Zealand Tests, Stokes has been the man for England.
“He’s a golden nugget, isn’t he?" England captain Root was at a loss of words for his talisman. “He’s just a fantastic specimen, really."
“(He) will always put the team first and give everything to the team of players he’s playing beside. There’s not many sides that have a Ben Stokes. We’re very lucky to be witnessing what we are at the moment.”
ENGLAND WIN BY 189 RUNS ??????????????— Sky Sports Cricket (@SkyCricket) January 7, 2020
Ben Stokes the hero for England who level the series in South Africa
?? Watch #SAvENG reaction live on Sky Sports Cricket now or follow here: https://t.co/WsK3X2KrZD pic.twitter.com/GqXzxZVXhC
In the second Test match against South Africa in Newlands, the tale was no different. In fact, his contribution to the Test on paper - 119 runs, three wickets and six catches - fails to show even a fraction of what he was worth for the team.
With England trying desperately to up the ante in the second innings, they seemed to be falling short of the desirable target, they would need to quash South Africa. The overs in the game were racing away and it appeared that skipper Joe Root might not have enough time to bundle South Africa out on the last day.
However, Stokes had different plants. He came out to bat in a different zone and started pounding one boundary after another. This was the most daunting avatar of the all-rounder - the beast mode, with shades of the Headingley masterclass evident.
Stokes cruised to his half-century off just 34 deliveries and was looking imperious at 72 off 46. All Test players know that centuries at the highest level don't come easy and most players in such a situation would have had the temptation of going for those magical three figures.
Stokes did nothing of that.
Instead, in an attempt to go downtown, he was caught by Rassie van der Dussen at long on, off spinner Keshav Maharaj, but there was not a zilch of disappointment on Stokes' face for missing out on a century. Yes, some stemmed from failing to further the team's cause, but nothing personal.
The more I watch @benstokes38 I realise he is gifted with so much natural external talent .. But .. it’s his inner determination & relentless ability to never ever give up which all kids should try & copy .. #SAvENG— Michael Vaughan (@MichaelVaughan) January 7, 2020
His performance with the ball thereafter was just as good. It is a quality that the Christchurch-born possesses. He rises to the occasion when the chips are down.
With Jimmy Anderson out of the park due to a side strain, England were struggling to get the 7 wickets required on the last day to register what would be a historic victory.
With just about an hour of day's play left, and 5 wickets still required, the Proteas were smelling an escape. It only added to their advantage that both Sam Curran and Stuart Broad were not asking very tough questions of them.
The vice-captain then brought himself on and bowled a relentless spell that saw him uproot the last three wickets while conceding just one run from 28 deliveries.
It is to be noted that the Newlands pitch had become completely unresponsive by now, with the ball dying on the way to the batsman. On this very surface, Stokes gave us the illusion of bowling on a Gabba wicket at its prime. The dismissals of Anrich Nortje and Vernon Philander came about, with Stokes beating them for bounce.
The celebration came at last, but only after he had achieve the objective at hand. And it was not for his heroics. It was for the team.
It's always for the team.
“I don’t know really, I don’t really think about it like that,” said Stokes after the win. "I’m always wanting to do something in the moment of a game and the best thing about being an allrounder is that there are four innings in a Test match so four opportunities to influence a game. I will always try to do that. Some days you will have games where you do (nothing) ... so you take it as it comes.”
If this was not enough, he gave away his Man of the Match award to Dominic Sibley for bringing up his maiden Test ton.
What on earth would England have done without this gem calked Stokes!
©Cricket World 2020