Ben Stokes impresse in the two-Test series against New Zealand © Getty Images
Ben Stokes impressed in the two-Test series against New Zealand © Getty Images

Cardiff: England captain Alastair Cook believes all-rounder Ben Stokes could have as big an impact upon the Ashes as Andrew Flintoff did a decade ago. Flintoff was the star of England’s 2005 Ashes series victory with 402 runs and 24 wickets as they beat Australia in a Test campaign for the first time since 1986-87.

Stokes, like Flintoff a hard-hitting batsman and lively seamer, impressed during England’s first Test win against New Zealand at Lord’s this season with dashing innings of 92 and 101, as well as taking two wickets in two balls on the last day. READ: Michael Clarke insists Mitchell Johnson is ready ‘with fire in his belly’ for Ashes 2015

Asked who might emerge as an Ashes hero this year on the eve of the first Test in Cardiff starting on Wednesday, Cook told a news conference: “I’m going to pick another all-rounder — Ben Stokes. He’s been in fantastic form this summer. I believe he’s coming into his own. He feels comfortable, and I think he’s going to have a fantastic summer,” the opening batsman added.

Stokes has looked assured since being promoted to number six in the Test order by caretaker coach Paul Farbrace, now the assistant to England’s new Australian boss, Trevor Bayliss. His century at Lord’s showed Stokes making good on the promise he demonstrated with a hundred in just his second Test, against Australia in Perth — a rare England highlight in the midst of their humiliating 5-0 Ashes defeat in 2013-14. READ: Ashes 2015 win would be my best achievement, says Alastair Cook

Stokes, 24, had plenty of ups and downs between those two centuries, including being left out of England’s World Cup squad — as indeed was Cook. “I think over the last six months he’s really matured as a cricketer,” Cook said of Stokes.

“Being left out of the World Cup squad hurt him. We all know he’s got the talent to be there, but he would say himself he wasn’t quite performing as he should have done to earn selection. I like the way he’s gone about his business this summer. He trains incredibly hard, and physically he’s in really good shape.”

Cook added: “I think he understands international cricket a little bit better than he did when he first started.”