Booth Lawrence: Ben Stokes’ chaotic energy has done wonders for England’s Test side

Few scenes could sum up the chaotic energy of this English dressing room better than the one on the third night of the final test in Karachi.

With an hour and a quarter remaining, and 167 runs needed to sweep Pakistan 3-0 cleanly, Ben Stokes was telling anyone who would listen that he wanted to win before dark – and he insisted he’d get out there and hit six sixes on himself. It took his teammates to point out that he wasn’t even padded.

Instead, England had to wait until 38 minutes on the morning of the fourth day for Ben Duckett to seal the win. Fittingly, the man who walked over from the other end to wrap him in a grateful embrace was Stokes.

Ben Stokes and Ben Duckett saw England home as they completed the whitewash in Pakistan

Ben Stokes and Ben Duckett saw England home as they completed the whitewash in Pakistan

Stokes has changed the England Test squad since taking over as captain in April

Stokes has changed the England Test squad since taking over as captain in April

However, whatever route England took to their stunning eight-wicket victory, this 9-of-10 win – which saw them sweep an unprecedented sweep of Pakistan – points to a lethal amount of technique in the madness.

It had been a year since that day since Joss Butler captained a useless Adelaide tailback, kicking 26 in just over four hours as England lost 2-0 in Australia on their way to a 4-0 defeat.

Here in Karachi, they hit their target in 28.1 overs – the equivalent of less than a session – to secure one of the greatest scores in their Test history. Pakistan once went 19 while losing just one match at home. They lost three in less than a month.

England's approach is very different from the one that failed in the Ashes last winter

England’s approach is very different from the one that failed in the Ashes last winter

The contrast with the team that stumbled last winter from one crash to the next, telling its fans over and over that they were about to turn, is so remarkable that it’s almost impossible to know where to start.

But it’s often said that with four runs needed on Tuesday, Stokes tried to hit Abrar Ahmed in the six that would have given him a Test number of 108 – more than Brendon McCollum, the man who helped turn the English game around, and perhaps Test cricket at the helm. He had to be content with two.

Times have really changed. Not so long ago, it was the England captain’s job to account for yet another humiliation beneath. Now, he was lamenting his failure to secure an acquittal with six.

Asked about McCollum and the record, Stokes said: ‘It’s been on my shoulder for a while now, every time I go out to bat. It will be there for a few more months. I was trying there, but I kept blinking. Like I said I need to hit the gym.

Stokes is now looking to overtake Brendon McCollum as a six-man in Test cricket

Stokes is now looking to overtake Brendon McCollum as a six-man in Test cricket

England resumed on the fourth morning on 112 for two, needing just another 55 to secure their place in the record books. It was a matter of when, not if.

10.38am was the answer as Duckett battered Mohammed Wasim through the covers to finish 82 off 78 balls and complete a remarkable run in which he passed 50 balls four times and make his case for a place in next summer’s Ashes XI.

Even Duckett, though, could not match the exploits of Harry Brooke, who was named player of the match and the series for his three centuries. Playing only because Jonny Bairstow broke his leg on the golf course, Brook soon assumed the mantle of England’s next great batsman.

Even in the dressing room where the captain and coach don’t like to get carried away, the excitement around his talent is palpable.

Brock’s 12 sixes in the series were one fewer than the rest of his teammates put together, but one of the many amazing aspects of this side is how they all found their own way to score at a knot rate.

Harry Brook hit three centuries for Pakistan and looks like the next great England batsman

Harry Brook hit three centuries for Pakistan and looks like the next great England batsman

The batting average of everyone except Ben Fox and Jack Leach was at least 85, while the highest among Pakistan’s main batsmen was 68 for Babar Azam. On Tuesday, Babar claimed his team had controlled two tests. Even England causes their opponents to stop thinking straight.

There were also bowling champions, not least fast ones, with Ollie Robinson, James Anderson and Mark Wood combining for 25 wickets in 20 – a remarkable effort in conditions when they were constantly praying for reverse swing. The various Pakistani seamers managed 11 wickets between them.

And the emergence of Karachi’s 18-year-old Rehan Ahmed, a leg-spinner with a big future, made it seem like Christmas was coming early.

Above all, Stokes’ side won the big moments, while Pakistan seemed to confirm the private view in the England camp that they did not relish the pressure.

Pakistani avalanches became a feature of English aggression. On the final day in Rawalpindi, they lost five to nine. In Multan, it was eight for 60, then five for 38. In Karachi, he fell seven for 142 in the first innings, and six for 52 in the second. Besides Babar and Saud Shakil, there was a bit of stickiness.

Rehan Ahmed had a dream of making his debut and could be a star in the future for England

Rehan Ahmed had a dream of making his debut and could be a star in the future for England

All the runs were made by England – significantly, given that the error that threatened to delay the start of the series was traded between them over the three Tests.

And if one gesture sums up Stokes’ undertaking to entertain, it was his tea-time announcement on the fourth day in Rawalpindi, setting a target of 343 for a fee.

Future opponents will keep saying Bazball won’t work against them – the Australians already do before next summer. All the while, England have continued to tear up the record books, challenging the older form of the game to reinvent themselves in the modern age, and perhaps even attract a new generation of fans.

It’s been a year they’ll never forget and Test cricket.

#Booth #Lawrence #Ben #Stokes #chaotic #energy #wonders #Englands #Test #side

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *