When a team amasses a total of 523 in their first innings to lead by 134 runs, they should not expect to face defeat in a test match, but that’s exactly what happened to the New Zealand cricket team in the first test match at Lords when facing England. Kane Williamson had registered 132 of the Kiwis 523 runs and had been ably supported by Martin Guptill, Ross Taylor and Bradley-John Watling but the tourists had not bargained for the impressive performance of English all-rounder Ben Stokes who was actually born in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Despite being just 23 years of age, Stokes has already been involved in some colourful escapades during his brief international career. He was sent home from an England Lions tour in Australian due to late night ill-discipline and then during a tour of the West Indies, he incurred an injury after punching a locker room door. There was never any doubting his cricketing talent but his self-control has been considered dubious.
However, following his display during the first test match against New Zealand, he is being described as similar to England all-rounder legends Andy Flintoff and Sir Ian Botham and his first innings total of 92 was just a mere taster of what was to follow.
Stokes may have disappointed with his bowling in the New Zealand first innings when recording figures of 0-105 from 21 overs but in scoring 101 during the England second innings, he compiled the fastest century registered in a Lords test match. He shared a partnership of 132 with captain Alastair Cook who provided the anchor role to allow Stokes to dispatch a series of forceful and sometimes unorthodox shots to various parts of the ground, much to the delight of the home supporters.
Cook eventually scored 162 with Joe Root accumulating 84 runs as the England innings ended at 478 with New Zealand requiring 345 to clinch victory. When the Kiwis were reduced to 12-3, the idea of a run chase became meaningless as defensive measures were required to obtain an acceptable draw. Yet Stokes was not finished.
By dismissing Kane Williamson and Brendon McCallum in successive deliveries, Stokes almost secured a Lords hat-trick, but he was eventually denied the ultimate achievement. From that moment onwards, both Watling and Corey Anderson threatened to ruin any England hopes of victory by sharing 107 runs with Anderson providing the swashbuckling shots in contrast to the more thoughtful strokes of his partner.
Eventually, both New Zealanders were dismissed and although the tail-enders did offer some resistance, there was the sight of Moeen Ali diving at the boundary for a spectacular catch to end the innings at 220 runs with just over 9 overs remaining.
England had secured an unlikely victory with Ben Stokes described as the real hero, but the Durham all-rounder must now show the discipline required to maintain these high standards, and earn the accolades bestowed upon past legends of the sport.