Root hails Stokes as England’s ‘Mr Incredible’

PUBLISHED: 07:44 21 July 2020 | UPDATED: 07:44 21 July 2020

England's Joe Root (left) and Ben Stokes (right) celebrate after their win in the Second Test at Emirates Old Trafford

England's Joe Root (left) and Ben Stokes (right) celebrate after their win in the Second Test at Emirates Old Trafford

PA Wire/PA Images

Joe Root concluded his England side are “in the presence of greatness” after the latest classic performance from cricket’s “Mr Incredible” Ben Stokes.

England levelled their Test series against the West Indies at 1-1 with a wonderful fifth-day finish at Emirates Old Trafford, with Stokes taking his increasingly inevitable role in the spotlight.

Having already set up the game with a brilliantly-paced 176 in the first innings, Stokes reeled through his repertoire as England turned a 311-run lead into a 113-run win late on the final evening.

Stokes had already scored a superb century and bagged a key first-innings wicket when he took the field on Monday but had plenty more to contribute.

Continuing an improvised role of at the top of the order, he hammered 62 runs in just 39 balls to finish unbeaten on 78 – the fastest ever half-century by an England opener.

His fearless ball striking yielded three sixes over long-off and four fours, in defiance of a world-class attack and eight permanent boundary fielders, and gave Root the added confidence he needed to declare with 85 overs remaining in the day.

Stokes bowled almost 15 of those, flogging himself with a short-ball strategy that earned him figures of two for 30 as the West Indies were dismissed for 198 just after 6.15pm.

He now has 343 runs at an average of 114.33 and nine wickets at 16.33 in the series, a towering return that does not flatter him.

“Everyone understands that we are watching a player at the peak of his powers, at the peak of world cricket, who is delivering time and time again,” said Root.

“He just seems to get better and better. I feel lucky, I don’t know what else to say. We have to savour that and we have to understand that we are – without wanting to pump his tyres too much – in the presence of greatness.

“He’s a genuine all-round player, something you don’t see much in world cricket. You get guys who have certain strengths and favour batting or bowling, but he’s someone you can genuinely turn to any time and he’ll change you a game. The sky’s the limit for him.”

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Root had earlier hailed Chris Woakes as the squad’s ‘Mr Dependable’ for his under-the-radar performance, which saw him reach 100 Test wickets in just 34 caps.

Asked if he had a similar title in mind for Stokes, he cited a cartoon superhero from the Pixar canon.

“He’s Mr Incredible! I can’t think of a better one,” added Root. “He probably looks a bit the like the cartoon character too.”

Superheroes do not tend to pick up niggles, of course, and Stokes was quick to brush off the discomfort which forced him to abandon his final over after four balls.

England’s chances of winning the series 2-1 when the third Test gets under way at the same venue on Friday would plummet should he be injured, but he said: “It was just my body starting to get really stiff. I’m fine.

“I’ll give everything to the team, whatever is asked of me. It’s a case of doing what’s needed at the time.”

Meanwhile, Cricket Australia interim chief executive Nick Hockley has revealed the organisers of the men’s T20 World Cup have been looking to the England-West Indies series to help guide the development of contingency plans for the postponed tournament.

The International Cricket Council announced on Monday the competition, which had been scheduled to take place in Australia from October 18 to November 15, had been pushed back until either 2021 or 2022.

“There’s no doubt, as we’re working through the plans for the (Australian) summer and as we’ve worked through the contingency planning (for the T20 World Cup), it is just massively, massively complex,” Hockley said during a press conference on Tuesday.

“We’ve been watching very closely how the ECB (England and Wales Cricket Board) have delivered their international series against the West Indies and everything that’s involved in ensuring biosecurity around that.”

Safety measures introduced for the series include limiting playing venues and placing teams into strict ‘bio-secure’ bubbles.

Hockley added: “The more we’ve looked at it, the more we’ve understood that, with international borders currently closed and requiring exemptions, same with some (Australian) state borders, the prospect of bringing 15 teams in, moving them around the country, I think the decision to postpone the event was absolutely inevitable.”

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