Ben Stokes hailed as Test cricket game-changer ahead of 100th England cap

Ben Stokes hailed as Test cricket game-changer ahead of 100th England cap

Ollie Pope has paid tribute to game-changing captain Ben Stokes as England’s talisman prepares to win his 100th Test cap.

A little over a decade on from his debut on the 2013/14 Ashes tour, Stokes will reach the landmark in Rajkot this week, when England resume their five-Test series against India.

The all-rounder has more than 6,000 runs and almost 200 wickets to his name across his first 99 outings in the format and has been at the heart of the majority of England’s most memorable successes during that period, including, for the last 18 months, as transformative captain.

"It's unbelievable," Pope, England’s vice-captain, said. "For anyone to play 100 Tests is an unbelievable achievement. He's had his highs and lows but what he's done since he's been captain has been amazing.

"Stokesy is not someone who likes it being all about him. He doesn't need those accolades but away from the ground I'm sure we'll celebrate him, get around him and think of something to do.

"He's changed the game in a lot of respects. He just has a way of bringing out the best in himself when the team needs him the most.

"There have been so many unbelievable memories and hopefully he can play 100 more. He's been great to watch, great to be a part of and hopefully there'll be many more special moments in his career.”

The most recent part of Stokes’s Test career has run parallel to doubts over how much longer he can continue playing the format given his struggles with a chronic knee problem.

However, after belatedly undergoing surgery late last year, the 32-year-old has looked as fit as ever so far on the tour of India, which resumes with the Third Test in Rajkot on Thursday.

Stokes has been playing as a specialist batter since midway through last year’s Ashes series but has begun building up his bowling workloads in nets in recent weeks and did so again in training on Tuesday morning.

Despite excitement over a possible return to competitive bowling, however, Pope confirmed that the target remains a return to all-round duties in time for the home summer.

"He's just getting back to bowling and getting his knee right," Pope said. "That's why he had surgery - just to make sure that when he is back bowling, he's going to be bowling quickly and as well as he can.

"I'd be surprised [if he bowled in India] and I guess you never know. But I think he's just preparing as a batter."