Why England’s very own ‘Superman’ Ben Stokes should be first name on any team sheet - Chris Waters

IT IS difficult to think of a cricketer that you would rather have in your side than England’s Ben Stokes.

SUPERMAN: England's Ben Stokes walks off with a stump after the hosts' win on day five at Emirates Old Trafford. Picture: Jon Super/NMC Pool/PA

Australia’s Steve Smith, perhaps, for his Bradman-esque performances with the bat, or possibly India’s Virat Kohli for similar reasons?

But for all-round ability and the capacity to influence and inspire through presence and deed, Stokes would be the first name on most people’s team sheet.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Read More

Read More
Greatness of Ben Stokes hailed as he leads England to victory over West Indies a...
England's Ben Stokes smacks the ball through the leg side on his way to an unbeaten 78 against West Indies at Old Trafford on Monday. Picture: Jon Super/NMC Pool/PA

It is certainly no disrespect to Jason Holder, the West Indies captain, to suggest that the International Cricket Council all-rounder rankings are the wrong way round, with Holder No 1 and Stokes No 2.

Further evidence of Stokes’s greatness – if any more were needed – came as England completed a superb 113-run victory to level the three-match series against Holder and his troops.

To his first innings 176, his second-highest Test score, Stokes thrashed an unbeaten 78 in the second innings from just 57 balls, allowing Joe Root to declare around an hour into the final day and set West Indies 312 to win from a minimum of 85 overs.

Although the tourists never had serious designs on that target, with a draw good enough for them to retain the Wisden Trophy in any case, they were in the process of making a nuisance of themselves through a fifth-wicket stand of exactly 100 between Shamarh Brooks and Jermaine Blackwood that had carried them to 137-4 in the last over before tea.

England's Ben Stokes bowls during day four of the second Test against West Indies at Old Trafford. Picture: Jon Super/NMC Pool/PA

Things were just starting to slip away from England but who should intervene but the superlative Stokes, who dug a short delivery into Blackwood’s rib cage from around the wicket which the batsman fended up to wicketkeeper Jos Buttler, who took a fine diving catch away to his left.

When Chris Woakes added the wicket of Shane Dowrich straight after tea, trapped lbw to give Woakes his 100th Test wicket on his 34th appearance, West Indies were 138-6, the game effectively up.

Sam Curran pinned Brooks lbw on the back foot for the top score of 62; Dom Bess bowled Holder through the gate; Alzarri Joseph slapped Stokes to point and, with 15 overs left and the last hour just signalled by umpire Richard Illingworth, Bess rounded things off by having Kemar Roach brilliantly caught at short-leg by Ollie Pope, who parried the ball up and then flew to his left to claim the rebound.

Earlier, there were three wickets for Stuart Broad, who had John Campbell caught behind, Shai Hope bowled and Roston Chase lbw. Woakes won an important lbw against Kraigg Brathwaite, the likeliest of the West Indians to bat out the day, after England had come out all guns blazing at the start of day five, adding 92 to their overnight score of 37-2 in just 11 overs, Root the only casualty when he sacrificed himself to a run-out to enable Stokes to keep going before the hosts pulled out at 129-3.

England's Ben Stokes raises his bat after reaching his half century on Monday at Old Trafford. Picture: Jon Super/NMC Pool/PA

Stokes, 16 overnight, was badly dropped on 29 by Campbell at deep mid-off off Shannon Gabriel en route to a 36-ball half-century – the fastest in Test cricket by an England opener (albeit of the makeshift variety with quick runs the target).

The Durham man smashed three sixes as he finished up with 254 runs in the match to go with three wickets and a catch, his workload such that he complained of stiffness towards the end and, as a precaution, did not complete his 15th over as the shadows lengthened.

None of which detracted from the impression of a cricketer who is a force of nature as surely as Superman.

Really, someone should examine Stokes’s birth certificate to make sure that his real name is not actually Clark Kent, for it seems that there is nothing beyond this fellow.

CENTRE STAGE: England's Ben Stokes walks off with a stump after the hosts' win against West Indies at Old Trafford. Picture: Jon Super/NMC Pool/PA

Stokes’s batting has gone to the next level in recent times, his two innings here contrasting in tempo and showing how he can flit seamlessly now between attack and defence.

The lift that it must give team-mates to see Stokes at the crease, or charging into bowl, or throwing himself this way and that in the field can only be imagined.

“With this man in our midst,” they must think to themselves, “no challenge is hopeless, no cause lost.”

Perhaps the most vivid memory of this day’s cricket, in fact, will be that of Stokes chasing a ball that he had himself bowled to Blackwood, who hit it through the vacant mid-off area and out towards the boundary.

Stokes hared after it and, with a full-length dive, tried to bring it back from the brink; it barely mattered that the batsmen ran four in the process.

Thanks primarily to Stokes, this series is set up beautifully for Friday’s decider at the same ground.

Stiffness permitting, England’s Superman will be leading their charge to regain the Wisden Trophy.

Editor’s note: First and foremost - and rarely have I written down these words with more sincerity - I hope this finds you well.

Almost certainly you are here because you value the quality and the integrity of the journalism produced by The Yorkshire Post’s journalists - almost all of which live alongside you in Yorkshire, spending the wages they earn with Yorkshire businesses - who last year took this title to the industry watchdog’s Most Trusted Newspaper in Britain accolade.

And that is why I must make an urgent request of you: as advertising revenue declines, your support becomes evermore crucial to the maintenance of the journalistic standards expected of The Yorkshire Post. If you can, safely, please buy a paper or take up a subscription. We want to continue to make you proud of Yorkshire’s National Newspaper but we are going to need your help.

Postal subscription copies can be ordered by calling 0330 4030066 or by emailing [email protected] Vouchers, to be exchanged at retail sales outlets - our newsagents need you, too - can be subscribed to by contacting subscriptions on 0330 1235950 or by visiting www.localsubsplus.co.uk where you should select The Yorkshire Post from the list of titles available.

If you want to help right now, download our tablet app from the App / Play Stores. Every contribution you make helps to provide this county with the best regional journalism in the country.

Sincerely. Thank you. James Mitchinson, Editor