‘It’s a very high ceiling’: Ben Stokes talks up ‘scary’ potential of England side | England v South Africa 2022


Ben Stokes described the potential of his team as “scary” after England brought down the curtain on their first summer under his captaincy by wrapping up a nine-wicket victory over South Africa at the Oval, their sixth win in seven matches since the start of June.

With the prospect of the side being bolstered by the return of several seamers from injury – including Jofra Archer and Mark Wood – by the time Australia visit next summer with the Ashes on the line, Stokes believes England’s future looks bright.

“It’s a great thing to think about,” Stokes said. “Who knows how far we can take this side over the next couple of years? Because we’ve got two of our premium fast bowlers who have had big injuries, so you add Jofra and Woody into the mix, it’s scary to think where things could go. And the batters we’ve got coming through – it’s a very high ceiling.”

The Test team’s next challenge will be to continue this form in the less familiar conditions of Pakistan in December, with Stokes taking the unusual step of encouraging his players to get carried away by their recent exploits. “I think it would be silly not to reflect on this summer, and not take too much from it because it’s a very special thing we’ve managed to achieve,” he said. “But it is something we are going to try to continue when we go to Pakistan. We can’t live off the fact that we’ve won six out of seven games, because we’ll be presented with a completely different challenge. We want to go there and continue the form we’ve shown, to walk towards that danger of what Pakistan is going to throw at us.”

Stokes also called on commentators not to be too critical when the positive approach he is encouraging does not pay dividends, warning of young players being confused by “mixed messages”. “I feel people who talk about the way we play should understand they’ve got a huge influence on the next generation of cricketer,” he said. “People do listen to what they say about the game, which sometimes contradicts what we’ve got to say.”

Zak Crawley, who has had to endure significant criticism across a difficult summer, concluded it with a stylish and unbeaten 69, including a punch through cover for four that ended the match. It was his first half-century in 18 innings since his ton in Antigua in March, in which time there have been nine single-digit scores and two ducks.

Zak Crawley (left) and Ollie Pope celebrate after Crawley hit the winning runs against South Africa.
Zak Crawley (left) and Ollie Pope celebrate after Crawley hit the winning runs against South Africa. Photograph: Gareth Copley/Getty Images

“What we’ve seen of Zak here is what we know he can produce,” Stokes said. “That innings would have given Zak a huge amount of confidence within himself. He knows he’s got the backing of the dressing room but there can always be that self-doubt when things aren’t going your way, and the way he went out and played on Sunday was just awesome. It gives me and everybody else in the dressing room huge excitement and you feel proud for your players when they go out and do something like that.”

Ollie Robinson was named player of the match after taking seven wickets, including five for 49 in South Africa’s first innings, and admitted in the presentation that it had taken Stokes’s “complete honesty” to spur him to new levels of fitness and consistency. “Everything I say to my players, they know it’s for the best reasons and those conversations that I had with Ollie, he went away with and he understood,” Stokes said. “Criticism is something that if I ever deliver it, it is purely based on what I feel is best for that individual to progress as a player or as a person. It’s something I did with Ollie and that’s why we’ve seen the impact he’s had on these [last] two Test matches.”

With three Tests in Pakistan and two in New Zealand to come over the winter, Stokes admitted it would be premature to devote too much time to thoughts of next summer’s Ashes series – but that it is proving impossible to ignore it completely. “When you know you have an Ashes coming up very soon, it’s hard not to look at it – especially with how the last Ashes trip went,” he said. “I’m excited by the Ashes next summer, especially with the way we are playing. We know how good Australia are. I am looking at it, but we have a bit to do before that.”



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