Sky is the limit for 'Mr Incredible' Stokes, says Root
England's 113-run win against the West Indies in the second Test on Monday was built on a towering performance with bat and ball from Ben Stokes. The win kept the hosts' quest for the Wisden Trophy alive with the series level 1-1. The final Test begins on Friday
Joe Root, England's captain, believes his team is 'in the presence of greatness', after paying handsome tribute to his 'Mr Incredible', Ben Stokes for yet another display of match winning bravado in the second Test against West Indies.
Although England's 113-run victory at Emirates Old Trafford on Monday was a fine team performance, featuring key contributions from the likes of Stuart Broad, Chris Woakes and Dom Sibley, the contest was set up by Stokes' immense allround haul of 254 runs and three wickets, including the vital scalp of Jermaine Blackwood on the stroke of tea on the final day of the match.
And, having followed up his first-innings 176 - in which he took a diligent 255 balls to reach his hundred - with a trail-blazing 78 not out from 57 in a pinch-hitting opener's role in the second, Root felt sure that Stokes' extraordinary ability to adapt his game to meet the match situation would ensure the grandstand performances would keep on coming.
"He's Mr Incredible. I suppose," Root said after the match, referencing the muscle-bound cartoon superhero of the same name. "He looks a bit like him, and will probably end up the same shape too.
"I certainly think he can keep performing at this level. I think the sky's the limit for him really, when you watch how he goes about things, there's no reason why he can't keep performing this consistently.
"To have such a complete game, and so many different gears at your disposal, allows you the ability to keep getting better. But most importantly, if he continues to read situations the way he is, and keeps the confidence that he's playing with at the moment, there's no reason why we can't continue to see such brilliant performances as we have done this week, and over the last 12 months really."
After leading the team in Root's absence in last week's first Test, and producing a pair of 40s in England's four-wicket defeat, Stokes stepped up the tempo of his performance with the series on the line.
Root said: "He showed a bit more versatility really, within himself, and the fact that he's more complete player now. I think on a personal front he thoroughly enjoyed this week in a different way to Headingley.
"From a team point of view, it'd be very easy for us to not appreciate how good a performance this was, because of the lack of atmosphere within the ground. Well, I don't think that's the case. I think everyone understands that we are watching a player at the peak of his powers, at the peak of world cricket, delivering time and time again.
"We have to savour that, we have to appreciate that and understand that we are - without trying to pump his tyres too much - in the presence of greatness."
I'll give everything to the team: Stokes
Later, Stokes moved to ease injury concerns after he pulled up in discomfort while bowling late in England's second-Test victory, in which he played a starring role.
Stokes stopped bowling after four deliveries of his 15th over in West Indies' second innings, having claimed the wickets of key batsman Jermaine Blackwood and tailender Alzarri Joseph, the latter putting England within one wicket of victory.
"I'm fine," Stokes told Sky Sports after the match.
"Just the body started to get quite stiff. I said to Broady, 'the body's starting to stiffen up, what do you reckon?' and he said, 'just stop'.
"Three or four years ago against Pakistan I had the same thing and I ended up blowing my calf so I didn't want to take that risk."
Stokes rejected suggestions too much had been asked of him with the ball.
"Absolutely not," Stokes said. "Obviously, I'll give everything to the team, whatever is asked of me. We sort of found a method within our attack to change things up when things are looking a bit dry to go to that type of bowling or being aggressive in setting the field."
Becomes top Test allrounder
Stokes has replaced Jason Holder as the No 1 Test allrounder following a match-defining performance in the second Test against West Indies at Old Trafford. Stokes also went up to a career-best third spot in the rankings for batsmen, only behind Steven Smith and Virat Kohli, joint with Marnus Labuschagne on 827 ranking points.
Stokes trailed Holder in the allrounders' list by 54 points before the second Test, but ended it 38 points in front.
In the process, Stokes ended Holder's stay at the top after 18 months, and became the first from England to head the rankings since Andrew Flintoff in May 2006. Stokes' tally of 497 points was also the highest by a Test allrounder since Jacques Kallis got to 517 in April 2008.
As far as the World Test Championship (WTC) is concerned, the win took England to the third position on the points table, the 40 points putting them in front of New Zealand and only behind India and Australia.
Brief scores: England 469-9 decl (Stokes 176, Dom Sibley 120, Roston Chase 5-172) and 129-3 decl (Stokes 78 n.o.) beat West Indies 287 (Kraig Brathwaite 75 n.o., Shamarh Brooks 68, Chase 51, Stuart Broad 3-66) and 198 (Brooks 62, Jermaine Blackwood 55, Broad 3-42) by 113 runs.