If you thought Ben Stokes was going to rest on his laurels after a sensational 2019 then clearly, you were wrong. The 28-year-old proved the difference-maker once again for England at Newlands to secure a 189-run win over South Africa and level the series.
One of the special things about Test cricket is the completely encapsulating periods of play that are impossible to look away from and stay long in the memory–Stokes’ performance in the final session was certainly one of those.
A resolute batting performance from the South Africans appeared to have knocked the wind out of England as the time ticked away in the evening session but as he has so often in the last 12 months, the England allrounder stepped up to drag his side over the line.
Looking back over the five days now, Stokes’ display was a near-complete performance in which he showcased all sides of his game. The 28-year-old etched his name into the record books by becoming the first English fielder to take five catches in an innings, helped the Three Lions take control of the game with his selfless 72 from 47 balls on day three, and then provided an inspired spell to take the final three wickets in the dying moments on day five.
Missed our breakdown of Dom Sibley’s maiden Test century? Check it out here.
There were concerns ahead of this tour of how useful he could be with the ball but against South Africa at Newlands, he showed just how dangerous a weapon he can be for Joe Root.
We put a spotlight on his fourth innings performance to breakdown his display with the ball…
The Durham and England man’s performances with the bat over the past 12 months have been polarising and often overshadow his talents with the ball. At times it has been hard not to question his underuse. In the first Test, he bowled just eight overs in total and in the first innings at Newlands he bowled just nine–the least of any England bowler bar Root.
That raised a number of questions–has he been carrying an injury? Did Root just feel another one of his bowlers was the right option? Or are the Three Lions looking to take the pressure off him with the ball to help him flourish with the bat?
Stokes’ performance in the fourth innings at Cape Town may not have directly answered any of these but what it has done is remind us of just how talented a bowler he is.
The 28-year-old bowled 23.4 overs in total in South Africa’s second innings, eight of which were maidens. In the absence of Jofra Archer, Stokes was asked to bowl an aggressive line by Root for much of the day but with England desperately needing three wickets in the final hour, he bowled a fuller line and got his rewards–taking three wickets.
The fact that even after 23.3 overs, Stokes was able to bowl the most threatening ball of the game (according to CricViz) indicates that he can deal with the workload and often thrive under it.
After his performance in Cape Town, the 2019 BBC Sports Personality of the Year must surely be the favourite to recapture the award again in 2020, mustn’t he? He was awarded an OBE in the New Year’s Honours, so at this point perhaps we should expect to call him Sir Ben Stokes at this time in 2021.