England paceman James Anderson has heaped praise on Ben Stokes, describing the all-rounder as a “godsend” and someone who has everything in his locker to become an outstanding bowler.
Stokes has had a tough introduction to Test cricket after being handed his debut during England’s troubled Ashes tour to Australia, but the 22-year-old has shown plenty of signs he can flourish at this level, both with bat and ball.
His first Test wicket was the prized scalp of Australia captain Michael Clarke on debut in Adelaide, and then in the next match in Perth he made 120 for his maiden Test ton.
Stokes also took three wickets in that match, including Clarke again, and he was celebrating another scalp on day two in the fourth Test in Melbourne after dismissing Shane Watson as England finally enjoyed a day to cherish having reduced Australia to 164-9 in reply to the tourists’ 255 all out. Yorkshire’s Tim Bresnan chipped in with two wickets.
Stokes may not have picked up that many wickets so far, but Anderson has been impressed with what he has seen from the Durham man and feels he is a huge help to the other bowlers.
“The addition of Ben Stokes has been a godsend really for the other seamers,” said Anderson, himself having struggled to repeat his impressive performances on the last Ashes tour Down Under three years ago.
“Having that balance in the side of a No 6 batsman who can bowl as well as he can bowl, it does wonders for us having four seamers in there.
“I think he’s doing great. You saw today his first spell was fantastic.
“Obviously he can bowl 90mph, he swings the ball, he reverse swings the ball.
“So I think he has all the attributes to be an outstanding bowler alone, never mind an all-rounder.”
England’s linchpin seamer knows he must be ready for more hard work if England are to salvage something from a dire campaign and is expected to be around for plenty more Tests yet, helping oversee the progression of up-and-coming stars such as Stokes.
Anderson’s close friend Graeme Swann retired mid-series, before this match, at the age of 34. But the Lancashire seamer, three years younger than the former off-spinner, wants to continue with an England team he insists are capable of far better than they have shown here.
“Just because Graeme’s gone, I have got other friends in the team,” he said, with a smile. “I’d like to carry on for a bit. I’m really enjoying being part of this.
“It’s been a disappointing tour, and I know we’ve got a lot more to show people – and I want to be a part of that.”
Swann was renowned not just for his wickets but his larger-than-life personality within what was a very successful team ahead of the current tour.
“He was a big character in there, but there are other big characters in our dressing room,” added Anderson.
“As harsh as it sounds, he’s a good friend, but we’ve got to move on.
“It’s sad to see him leave, but we’ve got to concentrate on the future now. We want to get something out of this Test and the next one.”
While England’s bowlers have managed to get Australia in trouble previously on tour without hammering home their advantage – the first day of the first Test in Brisbane being the most glaring example when England had the hosts 132-6 – this time there was no let-up from the tourists.
Anderson put that down to a more disciplined approach on day two at the MCG.
He said: “We just stuck to our plan.
“There are no demons as such in the pitch, it’s just really hard to score on.
“We just tried to bang out our areas and be as boring and patient as possible throughout the whole day.
“Maybe in previous games we’ve got a bit excited and carried away with ourselves and gone away from our plan.
“But that’s something that we’ve particularly concentrated on this game.”