Ben Stokes's attacking hundred lifted England in this Test match © Getty Images
Ben Stokes’s attacking hundred lifted England in this Test match © Getty Images

Ben Stokes played two vital innings for England in the first Test at Lord’s against New Zealand. He bailed England out of trouble on the first day when his side was reeling at 30 for four, and on Day Four he scored the fastest century at Lord’s, in the second innings to put the hosts in control of the match. Pramod Ananth asserts this could be Stokes’ career-defining match.

England were in serious pressure to perform going into this match. They have not been the same team since they suffered a 5-0 drubbing in the Ashes in 2013-14. Their 1-1 draw in the West Indies added to their woes. It looked as though New Zealand were in cruise control on Day One, but Ben Stokes walked in at No. 6 and changed everything. READ: Alastair Cook finds his lost mojo

In the first innings, Stokes played some excellent counter-attacking cricket, where he scored a 94-ball 92 to get England back into the game. He put on a 161-run stand with Joe Root for the fifth wicket, from where England finished their innings with a decent score. Considering where they were in the initial stages, they would have certainly been happy registering 389 on the board. READ: Stuart Broad still has a lot to offer

After conceding a lead of 134, England were given a daunting task of setting New Zealand a big total to save or perhaps even win the match. Root was dismissed for 84, but England’s lead was less than 100 when Stokes walked out to the crease at No. 6 again. He started out cautiously as the match was placed in a precarious position. But once he got his eye in, there was absolutely no stopping him. Stokes was determined not to squander away the opportunity to score a ton just like he did in the first innings.

Luckily for him, everything worked out fine as he scored his second century off just 85 deliveries and his century became the fastest century at Lord’s. This was also the second fastest century by an English player, surpassing Ian Botham’s 86-ball ton against Australia at Manchester. READ: New Zealand’s best shot at history

Fastest century by an England player

Player

BF Opposition Venue Year
Gilbert Jessop

76

 Australia The Oval 1902
Ben Stokes

85

 New Zealand Lord’s

2015

Ian Botham

86

 Australia Manchester

1981

Ian Botham

87

 Australia Headingly 1981
Kevin Pietersen

88

 West Indies Queen’s Park Oval, Port of Spain

2008/09

Fastest centuries at Lord’s

Player BF Opposition Year
Ben Stokes

85

 New Zealand

2015

Mohammad Azharuddin

87

England

1990

Tamim Iqbal

94

England

2010

Skipper Alastair Cook was looking at his very best at the other end. He played a less entertaining, yet important innings. After Stokes’ dismissal, he now holds the key if England are to bat New Zealand out of the game. Cook’s 27th Test ton came at just the right time and he would certainly be relieved to remain unbeaten at the end of the day.

This was Stokes’ first century after he scored one against Australia in his second Test at Perth in December 2013. Stokes is just 10 Tests old and after these knocks he will feel that he has cemented his place in the side. It was by no means an easy match for Stokes. There were two catches dropped off his bowling by Ian Bell. First Tom Latham was given a life on Day Three, which was followed by Kane Williamson being dropped at slips. Stokes was able to put his disappointments with the ball behind him and rise to the occasion. This tells us something about Stokes’ character and temperament.

His form with the ball has not been particularly good of late. Stokes has just managed to get eight wickets in his last nine innings and one gets the feeling that he has to step it up a notch to become a great all-rounder. Yes, he has been unlucky in this match with the ball, but the important thing is to keep persisting and improving in every game.

England have not had a fast bowling all-rounder since Andrew Flintoff’s departure from the national side. Stokes could just be the solution, if he is backed and given a longer run by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), selectors and the team management.  He got off to decent starts against West Indies too, but could never convert them into big ones. Stokes and ECB will hope that his performance with the bat in this match and signs of good things to come from the all-rounder.

(Pramod Ananth is a reporter at CricketCountry. He has represented Karnataka table tennis under-15, and is a hardcore supporter of Liverpool FC. His Twitter handle is @pramz)