Ben Stokes has proved himself as a player and as a leader in England vs New Zealand Test series.
The Ben Stokes era began for England with an emphatic 3-0 Test series win over New Zealand. All of a sudden, much like limited overs, England started looking rejuvenated in Test cricket as well. Fourth innings totals of 277, 299 and 296 were chased by England against the Kiwis in the recent Test series.
Let’s see what impact England’s newly appointed skipper has made on the team.
Impact innings in crunch situations
After getting bundled out for 141 in the first innings at Lord’s, England were chasing 277 in the last innings and in the process they were 69/4 at one stage. However, Stokes' crucial 54 and the 90-run partnership with Joe Root in the fourth innings was one of the most significant reasons behind England pulling off the chase.
Moreover, Stokes’ 46 and 75* in the Nottingham Test speaks volumes about his ability. England were again chasing close to 300 runs (299) in the fourth innings and had lost four wickets (including Root’s) on 94, victory was looking quite inevitable for the Blackcaps but again it was England skipper Stokes who shattered their ploys and added 179 runs for the sixth wicket with Jonny Bairstow and came out unbeaten on 75 to seal the match and series for the hosts.
Giving youngsters proper opportunities
A leader is someone who backs his players, shows faith in them and gives them ample space to deliver and that’s what Stokes has done in the Test series against New Zealand.
Matthew Potts made his Test debut under Stokes and showed glimpses of his talent in the very first innings of the Lord’s Test. The rookie took four massive wickets, conceding only 13 runs in the very first innings he bowled. Moreover, he scalped overall 14 wickets, with an outstanding average of 23.29 and strike rate of 53.93, in the three-match Test series against the Kiwis.
Not only Potts but Jamie Overton also made his debut under Stokes and made a massive impact in the final Test of the series. He amassed a sensational knock of 97 when England were 6/55 and rescued them from this dire situation. Moreover, he also bagged a wicket each in both innings of the Test.
Taking nothing away from these young lads but Stokes’ role was equally crucial in picking them in the first place.
The reinvention of Jonny Bairstow
There were never any doubts about Jonny Bairstow’s abilities in the limited overs format but he has somewhat reinvented himself in the recently concluded Test series against New Zealand. Smashing 136 off 92 balls when England were 4/93 chasing 299 in the Nottingham Test or rescuing them with 162 off 157 balls from 55/6 at Headingley, he was their main man behind England’s win in these two Tests. In addition, 71 off 44 balls in the second innings of the Headingley Test was just the icing on the cake for him.
Clearly, the licence he got from skipper Stokes and head coach Brendon McCullum is quite visible in his approach. Maybe he is the prime example of what a happy dressing room can do for a player.
Relationship between Stokes and McCullum
Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum both look pretty cool customers, both like to play attacking cricket and their impact is quite visible in the dressing room. The duo shares a great bond together, in fact, Stokes believes the arrival of McCullum will do wonders for England.
"He has pretty much done everything like he explained, the way he coaches. He hasn't thrown one ball yet, he has lived up to that, but he has been good. He is all about making everyone feel, in his words, '10 feet tall',” Stokes praised McCullum.
"I think it is pretty obvious in the way he will speak in the dressing room, because of the way he played cricket and when he was in charge of New Zealand. It's been a good few days working with him," he added.
So far, Stokes has captained England in four Tests and has won three of them in which he was a full-time captain. Furthermore, in these Tests, his batting numbers improved gradually as well. As captain, his Test average becomes 47.16 while as non-captain it was only 36.24.
Stokes and McCullum have given England a new direction in Test Cricket and so far, their approach seems to be working pretty well for the Three Lions. Though, the real test for the duo of Stokes and McCullum will be to win on foreign soil, especially in the subcontinent where the pacers don’t get much assistance. It will be fascinating to see how they take England forward in the long format.