The cricket world is singing Ben Stokes’ praises once again after the England all-rounder led his side to an enthralling victory over West Indies in the second Test.
Stokes once again took centre stage as England grabbed a 113-run victory on the final day at Old Trafford.
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Stokes, who scored 176 in the first innings, smashed an unbeaten 78 from 57 balls after England resumed on 2-37 before declaring on 3-129 to set the tourists a target of 312 in 85 overs.
The brilliant all-rounder then took 2-30, grabbing the crucial wicket of Jermaine Blackwood for 55 in the final over before tea to end a stubborn 100-run partnership with Shamarh Brooks (62).
Blackwood and Brooks had looked comfortable at the crease to lead a recovery for their side who'd been reduced to 4-37 after the recalled Stuart Broad (3-42) ripped through the top order.
Broad had John Campbell (4) caught behind in the opening over and then dismissed Shai Hope (7) and Roston Chase (3) with Chris Woakes claiming the scalp of in-form Kraigg Brathwaite for 12.
Needing five wickets for victory in the final session Woakes trapped Shane Dowrich lbw - his second duck of the match - shortly after the restart before Sam Curran dismissed Brooks to put the hosts firmly in the ascendancy.
West Indies skipper Jason Holder showed some defiance to take the match until the final hour with a belligerent 35 before being bowled by Dom Bess shortly after smashing him over his head for six.
Stokes struck again when he had Alzarri Joseph (9) caught by Bess, who then completed the win when Ollie Pope took a smart catch to dismiss Kemar Roach for five.
It meant Stokes became the first player in Test cricket history to score over 250 runs and take at least two wickets in a match.
Amazing Ben Stokes stat from @BumbleCricket just now on Sky: he is the only player in cricket history to score more than 250 runs and take more than one wicket in a Test match.— Richard Innes (@bigrichinnes) July 20, 2020
Stokes gets the breakthroughs too. I think he is being wasted on a cricket ground. In this form, he'll probably find a vaccine for Covid!— Harsha Bhogle (@bhogleharsha) July 20, 2020
In this game, Ben Stokes has scored 254 of the 443 runs while he has been at the crease (and been dismissed once). He scored his slowest Test century, then the fastest Test fifty by an England opener. What a player.— Lawrence Booth (@the_topspin) July 20, 2020
England and West Indies locked at 1-1
The decider will take place again in Manchester on Friday with the Windies looking to win a first series in England in 32 years.
England skipper Joe Root hailed the performance of Stokes, who was injured late on, pulling up mid-over but refusing to leave the field and putting his availability for the final Test in doubt.
“When you have got guys like Ben who can come in and play in the manner he does, and go through a range of gears and play the situation as well as he did, it just shows how valuable he is to our team,” Root told Sky Sports.
“It doesn't surprise me. You watch how he goes about his business, whether it be in practice, his fitness, everything, and he leads the way in many respects.
“He seems to want to keep getting better and better and we're seeing those results out on the field as well.
“It's great for a lot of the younger guys coming through, to see that.
“You've got to put the hard yards in, he certainly does that and we're starting to see that feed into the rest of the team, which is a great place to be.”