Ben Stokes: England’s sole ray of hope from their disastrous tour of Australia
Ben Stokes was in good form for England in Australia © Getty Images
As the English cricket team has been beaten soundly by Australia in both the Test and One-Day Internationals (ODIs) Down-Under, it has been a horrible tour for Alastair Cook’s men who have only managed to win a solitary game all throughout the tour. England have looked a pale shadow of the side that had beaten Australia not once but twice in back-to-back to series wins. Vineet Varma looks at what positives England can take from the ODI series.
Coming to England’s sole moment of glory in their current Australian tour, this writer rolls his memory back to the fourth ODI at Perth where England were put in to bat by Australia. The series had already been lost for England as Australia had taken an unassailable 3-0 lead after winning the first three matches convincingly and the match at the Western Australian Cricket Association (WACA) ground was to be considered as a mere formality. But for England, the game was much more than a rubber compete as they were struggling to retain their lost pride. By putting up some semblance of a good show with a huge score of 316 off 50 overs. Mitchell Johnson, who had tormented them throughout the Ashes with his searing pace and bounce was having an off-day and apart from James Faulkner none of the bowlers seemed to trouble the English batsmen.
After Ben Stokes (70) and Jos Butler (71) had helped England reach that huge score, their bowlers led by Stokes (4 for 38) and Tim Bresnan (3 for 45) helped England shoot Australia to 259 all out, thus giving them their first victory on the tour. Though the win can be counted as inconsequential considering the battering England have taken from Johnson and co, there are still some positives for England which will help them in future.
The biggest positive for England throughout the five match series was of course the form of their top two batsmen — Eion Morgan and Ian Bell, who averaged 56 and 41 respectively. They stood out as the lone rangers for Alastair Cook’s side in the batting department. Morgan was the lone centurion for England in the ODIs and his impeccable 106 at Brisbane was definitely the highlight as he handed the Australian quicks with deftness.
Bell, who had scored 68 in that same match is another player who was amongst the runs for England as he scored another half-century (55) at Perth and restored some pride.
Coming to the bowling and it was the trio of Stokes, Tim Bresnan and Chris Jordan who finished as England’s top bowlers in the series. Stokes, who is 22-years old, was probably the revelation of the tournament as apart from his good show with the bat, he also picked up 10 wickets at an average of 24.50, thus strengthening his case of being a key all-rounder.
Even Bresnan, who picked up seven wickets at an average of 36.85, has proved that he can do justice to the tag of a bowling all-rounder. Thanks to his handy performances with the bat which saw him smash a quick-fire 41 not-out down the order in the Sydney ODI. Other performers include Jordan (six wickets at 42.16) and Stuart Broad (five wickets at 29.60) who also contributed to the English bowling throughout the series and helped them salvage some pride.
Keeping England’s miserable run aside, the biggest positive they have gained is of course Stokes, who has been their lone ranger with both bat and ball and also finished as his side’s second highest wicket taker (15 wickets at an average of 32.80) and third highest run-scorer (279 runs at an average of 34.87) in the 5-0 Ashes drubbing.
Stokes is a a beacon of hope for England for the future as they will start to pick up the pieces from this disastrous tour and try and rebuild for the ICC World Cup 2015 to be held in a year’s time.
(Vineet Varma is a writer at Cricket Country. He can be followed @Vinfire19)