Ben Stokes: England’s new Test cricket captain puts his stable together

The “amazing” feat of hitting six sixes in an over has only been achieved twice in top-flight cricket, Ali Martin said in The guard: by Sir Garfield Sobers in 1968 and by Ravi Shastri in 1985. And last week at New Road, Worcester, Ben Stokes, England’s new captain, came close to joining this ‘elite club’. Playing for his county of Durham against Worcestershire, he started the first five balls of Josh Baker’s 20th over for six, scoring a 64-ball century in the process. Sensing that history was about to be made, the crowd fell silent. On the next ball, however, Stokes could only hit a “one-bounce four.” He looted 34 from the 18-year-old left-arm spinner – but still flinched “in frustration at a missed opportunity”. When he was finally out with 161 of 88 balls, he had to settle for a lower record. He had 17 batted sixes – the most ever in a county championship innings.

It’s probably a mistake to read too much into what happens on a dead pitch in a County game, Mike Atherton said in The times. Nonetheless, Stokes’ spectacular innings – his first since being appointed England captain – feel like a “pointer to the rest of the summer”. Representing his country, Stokes has for some time reined in his attacking instincts and is “trying to play as a dutiful top-flight hitter” – an approach that fit with the team’s generally “timid” style of play during the last year of Joe Roots tenure. But with Stokes at the helm, it seems inevitable that England will adopt a more aggressive style. And if that means hitting the “brutal mid-tier hitter of yore” reemerging, then “we could be in for a treat.”

Given Stokes’ lack of experience as a leader, it’s hard to know what kind of captain he’ll make, said Nick Hoult The Daily Telegraph. In his entire professional career, he has managed a team fewer than a dozen times. Those close to him are talking of a superb tactician who is more empathetic than his “alpha male” reputation would suggest – but how that will play out in captaincy pressures remains to be seen in a few months. The precedents of Ian Botham and Andrew Flintoff – the two all-rounders Stokes is most often compared to – are not exactly encouraging, Tim Wigmore said in the same paper. Both had brief, unfortunate spells as national captains. However, at almost 31, Stokes is an older, smarter, and more confident character than Botham or Flintoff did when they landed the role, and that could make all the difference. Yes, the challenge is “huge” – but he may well have the “strength” of personality to rise to it. Ben Stokes: England’s new Test cricket captain puts his stable together

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