England’s Ben Stokes ‘arguably best cricketer in the world’, says Rob Key
Ben Stokes has raised his game to a level based on Sky Sports pundit Rob Key.
The England all-rounder was on the opening day of their first Test against New Zealand ominous form, attaining 67 not out as the tourists closed on 241-4.
Though it required Stokes 15 balls to get off the mark, he accelerated hitting on a flurry of boundaries – and that capability left Key impressed.
“He appeared to play so much control,” said Key. “You return to that game at Lord’s from New Zealand (in July’s World Cup final), at which he smashed the ball into all components.
“It was just a small bit all or nothing occasionally, but he’s not like this any more. He had a technique but nowadays he’s turning into a streak scorer, at which he can perform with a lot of different kinds of innings.
“He’s just got every component of his game – he can play spin well, he has the ability and the way he can assemble an innings, his confidence is sky high. He is arguably the best cricketer in the world.
“Should you bowl him 50 great balls he’s got to be able to block 50 good balls, but anything they fall off line and length he has to have the ability to jump on and I believe that’s what he’s done.
“He has been able to counter-punch whereas, occasionally, you believe he has been attempting to hang in there because a batsman and show everybody how to do it. Now he’s able to move up and down through the gears.”
Stokes shared with a partnership of 83 using Joe Denly (74) to lift England out of a tricky position at 120-3 just before the tea interval at Mount Maunganui.
After the dismissal of Denly, Ollie Pope then contributed a unbeaten 18 from 23 balls, including four borders, to keep the business that was all-rounder until stumps.
Pope is back having endured injuries in the meantime, along with Sky Sports’ David Lloyd believed in raising the tempo, the Surrey batsman played with his role.
“Pope’s in his rightful place at No 6 and he had been eye catching,” said Lloyd. “He got a single off his original ball and that is always good once you come back in [the negative ].
“He shot the short ball on and looks to perform obviously and score runs, but he gets into great positions.
“Everybody’s talking about a new era for England, with a new coach and Stokes as vice-captain. What England are seeking to get is a that are settled.
“I believed at teatime they’d got static. They went nowhere but they have got there due to Stokes.
“They scored about 120 in that last semester, so that I look at the scoreboard today and I think, in the conclusion of the afternoon, England have got to wherever they wanted to be.”
Watch day two of the first Test between New Zealand and England live on Sky Sports Cricket from 9.30pm on Thursday.