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Ben Stokes’ all-round exploits have convinced many to compare the England all-rounder with his predecessor Andrew Flintoff and recently even his teammate Stuart Broad did so after he rocked South Africa with his bowling on the fourth day of the just-concluded Test at The Oval.
After scoring a stunning century in the first innings, the 26-year-old had put his team on the path to victory with brilliant bowling in the second innings. His spell on the fourth day firmly put the hosts on top when he dismissed Quinton de Kock and South Africa captain Faf du Plessis on consecutive deliveries to leave them reeling at 52 for four in pursuit of an improbable 492.
“It felt like one of those intimidating spells that Flintoff used to bowl; heavy and at the batsman,” said Stuart Broad had said after the day’s play. “Today, he [Stokes] bowled as quick as I’ve seen him bowl. He had the wind behind him and his tail was up. The bouncer that hit Elgar early in his spell really fired him up.
However, Stokes has not only downplayed the comparisons but also looked a bit uncomfortable while answering the question.
“I’ve always said that when the comparisons started flying at me, I’m not trying to be anyone else except myself. Some of the spells [Flintoff] produced when playing for England were amazing to watch. But I really don’t know what to say,” said Stokes who already has the same number of Test centuries as Flintoff managed in his whole career.
Stokes’ century in the first innings turned out to be decisive, as an early collapse for South Africa ensured that the Proteas never managed to gain a foothold in the match, as they went on to suffer a heavy 239-run defeat. And Stokes said he wants to make these decisive contributions.
“As long as I can produce the moments for the team that swing it our way and it means we’re going to win, that’s all I’m trying to do,” Stokes said. “Looking back over this Test, the thing is we have managed to go 2-1 up in the series, right the wrongs from Trent Bridge with the way the game has gone but all that matters to me is winning the game.”
“I am never happy with where I’m at and I never like to feel like I’m comfortable. I like making everything a little bit harder so that when it comes to the game it can feel a little easier,” he added.
England will now be hoping to make the most of their form by winning or drawing the final match at Old Trafford beginning on Friday (August 4) to register their first series over win over the Proteas at home. Their last three wins have been followed by defeat in the very next match and Joe Root & Co. will be keen to change the unwanted trend.
“We just hope that when it comes to the game in Manchester, we can put in a performance like the one just gone,” Stokes said. “But even when we have bad times, we can never look back at our preparation and think we could have done better.”