BEN Stokes has moved to ease injury concerns after he pulled up in discomfort while bowling late in England’s second-Test victory, in which he played a starring role.
Stokes stopped bowling after four deliveries of his 15th over in West Indies’ second innings, having claimed the wickets of key batsman Jermaine Blackwood and tailender Alzarri Joseph, the latter putting England within one wicket of victory.
“I’m fine,” Stokes told Sky Sports after England had won the match by 113 runs to level the series 1-1. “Just the body started to get quite stiff. I said to Broady, ‘the body’s starting to stiffen up, what do you reckon?’ and he said, ‘just stop’.
“Three or four years ago against Pakistan I had the same thing and I ended up blowing my calf so I didn’t want to take that risk.”
Despite bowling an 11-over spell in West Indies’ second innings, on the final day of a Test in which he had also scored a patient century and bludgeoned a fifty, Stokes rejected suggestions too much had been asked of him with the ball.
“Absolutely not,” Stokes said. “Obviously, I’ll give everything to the team, whatever is asked of me. We sort of found a method within our attack to change things up when things are looking a bit dry to go to that type of bowling or being aggressive in setting the field.
“Not only does it give us a wicket-taking option. It also dries it up because we feel the batsmen don’t have really anywhere to go. So, you know, once you get past that five-, six-over mark you sort of feel like you’re fresh as anything you keep going in. But I’ll always do whatever’s asked of me.”
Having scored 176 from 356 balls in England’s first innings, then 78 from 57 in the second, Stokes also broke up key partnerships with the wicket of Kraigg Brathwaite in the fist innings and then Blackwood’s in the second.
Asked about his contrasting performances with the bat, he couldn’t pick a favourite, but he took pride in batting long for his century while clearly enjoying captain Joe Root’s intent in sending him to open for the first time in a Test alongside fellow big-hitter Jos Buttler as England chased quick second-innings runs, a decision he said came after “a few conversations”.
“Obviously Joe has the final call and that’s what he decided to go with, so it was a real positive move, I thought,” Stokes said. “It’s no good for us walk away with this game with a draw and so Joe made a real positive effort to get me get me and Jos up the order.
“Looking at the scoreboard seeing 300 balls bowled feels a bit weird,” he added of his first innings, “but it had to be done.”
Root, also speaking to Sky Sports, said Stokes’ starring role in the match was not the least bit surprising.
“It doesn’t surprise me, you watch how he goes about his business, whether it be in practice his fitness, everything,” Root said. “He leads the way in many, many respects and he seems to want to keep getting better and better.
“And we’re seeing those results out in the field as well, which is great for a lot of the younger guys coming through to see that you’ve got to put the hard yards in. He certainly does that and, you know, we’re starting to see that feed into the rest of the team, which is a great place to be.” (ESPN CRICINFO)