Ben Stokes can seemingly do no wrong right now as England's fearless new Test cricket captain. Having just guided his side to a historic series whitewash in Pakistan, the talented allrounder solidified his burgeoning reputation with a selfless act that has been praised around the cricket world.
Stokes' men wrapped up an eight-wicket win in the third Test in Karachi to complete a 3-0 series sweep, in what was the first home whitewash suffered by Pakistan in Test history. In a Test match of stunning firsts, England's Rehan Ahmed also spun his way into the record books after becoming the youngest men's Test cricketer to claim a five-wicket haul in an innings on debut.
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Ahmed's stunning feat saw him break the previous record set by current Australia skipper Pat Cummins, who was 18 years and 193 days old when he took five against South Africa in 2011. It was perhaps fitting then that during the trophy presentation at the end of the series, Stokes was happy to take a back seat as Ahmed enjoyed his first big moment in the spotlight.
In an extraordinary gesture, Stokes gave the trophy to his young teammate, who was front and centre of the team photo in a position almost exclusively reserved for the captain of the side. Instead, Stokes gave the teenage star the honour of holding the silverware as he took up a spot in the back row for the photo.
After completing a historic whitewash over Pakistan in the subcontinent, England captain Ben Stokes hands the trophy to 18-year-old debutant Rehan Ahmed and stands at the back of the team photo.#PAKvENG pic.twitter.com/1qgZVz46Oo
— Nic Savage (@nic_savage1) December 20, 2022
Ben Stokes hands the trophy to Rehan Ahmed for the photo op and quietly slips into the back row. What a leader and what a man he is!! #PAKvsENG
— Andy Burge 🇪🇺🇬🇧🏳️🌈🇺🇦 (@AndyGJBurge) December 20, 2022
England beat Pakistan 3-0, the first time Pakistan have ever been whitewashed home or away. At the presentation a team photo with the trophy is taken and who does Stokes give the trophy to? Rehan Ahmed another class act from a classy individual. #ENGvsPAK
— Peter Morris (@petermorris61) December 20, 2022
Stokes handing over the trophy to Rehan Ahmed was very special gesture for me and obviously for the young man it would be a massive thing let alone contribute in that one game he gets to play!
As for Pakistan we r rock bottom in test cricket at the moment! #PakvsEng
— Hasnain Khalid 🇵🇸 (@Hasnain63083666) December 20, 2022
Lovely touch from Ben Stokes to give Ahmed the trophy and go and stand at the back. Always comes across as a captain that wants to make it about other players https://t.co/jYQSYiRYYo
— Matt (@Matt_Walker96) December 20, 2022
Another classy move by captain Stokes, passing the trophy to young Ahmed before team photo.
— Alan Dale (@AlanAlandale55) December 20, 2022
— pete banton (@sparkyPete) December 20, 2022
It was a briliant gesture from the England skipper that will no doubt forever be cherished by Ahmed, who looks to have a very bright future in the sport - even if the lofty comparisons to the late, great Aussie leg-spinner Shane Warne are grossly premature. Stokes' selfless act also demonstrates the togetherness and team spirit that he has fostered in the England squad since taking over from Joe Root as England captain.
'BazBall' revolution continues for England
The 31-year-old had not been back long from a mental health break when he replaced Root in April. Stokes and England's new coach Brendon McCullum have earned plaudits from around the world for what experts have labelled 'BazBall' - a fearless approach to Test cricket that has captured the imagination of fans and was best highlighted by England's astonishing win over Pakistan in Rawalpindi.
Stokes' bold declaration, which left Pakistan needing 343 to win in four sessions, was rewarded with victory shortly before bad light threatened to end the first Test in a draw. McCullum and his skipper have created a new environment where players are encouraged to enjoy cricket and not fear failure, and their swashbuckling style is testament to that.
'BazBall' has been based on aggressive run-scoring that allows bowlers the time to get the 20 wickets needed to win a Test. McCullum has realised advances in limited overs run-scoring - on show in England's recent T20 World Cup win under white-ball coach Matthew Mott - can be applied to Test cricket.
That expanded range of strokeplay, allied to classical shot-making, saw England become the first team to score 500 runs on the first day of a Test when Zak Crawley, rising stars Harry Brook and Ollie Pope, as well as Ben Duckett, all made hundreds in that Pakistan series opener in Rawalpindi.
England's willingness to defy their traditional conservatism was equally visible when 18-year-old spinner Ahmed claimed history in the third Test. As well as breaking Cummins' record, he also delivered the best figures by an England leg-spinner since 1959. His match figures of 7-137 were also the best of any England debutant since Peter Such's 8-145 against Australia in 1993.
Prior to this tour, England had won only two Tests in Pakistan and it was their first series win in the country since 2000-2001. The tourists, having restricted Pakistan to 216 in the second innings after Ahmed's historic five-wicket haul, comfortably chased a target of 167 to bring up their third straight victory in the series after wins in Rawalpindi and Multan.
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