England recalls ‘X factor’ Stokes for India opener
LONDON: Durham all-rounder Ben Stokes was recalled by England in a 13-man squad on Wednesday for next week’s first Test against India at Trent Bridge, with national selector James Whitaker saying the 23-year-old had the “X factor.”
Stokes was the only addition to the 12-man party chosen for England’s recent 1-0 loss in a two-Test series at home to Sri Lanka.
Stokes was not chosen for that short campaign while he regained full fitness following an embarrassingly self-inflicted wrist injury.
So angry was Stokes at being dismissed for a golden duck against the West Indies in Barbados, he punched a dressing room locker at the Kensington Oval in Bridgetown and promptly broke a bone in his hand.
That forced him to miss the ICC World Twenty20 in Bangladesh and the start of the English season.
Since then the seamer has taken a career-best seven for 67 for Durham against Sussex — and 10 wickets in the match — although his batting has been less impressive with 172 runs at 28.66 in four Championship matches.
However, Stokes has already shown his ability at international level by providing England with rare highlights during their 5-0 Ashes thrashing in Australia when he scored a maiden hundred in his second Test at Perth and took eight wickets in Sydney.
“Ben’s been frustrated at the start of the season from what happened at the back end of the winter,” Whitaker told Sky Sports News on Wednesday.
“Now he comes in with full vigour into our squad and he fully deserves it.
“He is a vivacious character, he’s got some ‘X factor’, he’s fantastic on flat wickets and gets some movement off the pitch.”
“We’re excited about Ben,” added Whitaker, in an indication Stokes would make the XI at Trent Bridge, probably at the expense of fellow all-rounder Chris Jordan, who has yet to deliver a substantial performance at this early stage of his Test career.
Chris Woakes, another seam-bowling all-rounder who was in the squad for the Sri Lanka series but didn’t play, was retained in England’s 13.
Alastair Cook, despite a barrage of criticism over his tactics during Sri Lanka’s 100-run second Test win at Headingley last week and concerns over his own form, retained the England captaincy.
Although it’s now more than a year since Cook scored the last of his England record 25 Test hundreds, Whitaker was confident he would come good again soon.
“He’s a fine, fine leader. He’s scored 30 international hundreds, over 11,000 runs and he’s a quality player going through a period where he’s struggling to get beyond 20-25.
“He’s got our full backing and we’ll all clap our hands when that (turn in form) does happen.”
England. in the absence of retired off-spinner Graeme Swann, again entrusted slow bowling duties to Moeen Ali, primarily a batsman who scored a maiden century in only his second Test at Headingley.
Ali took three wickets in the Sri Lanka series but Cook seemed reluctant to use him, thereby increasing the workload on his seamers.
And with the five Tests against India set to take place within the space of just 42 days, a lack of overs from Ali and occasional spinner Joe Root threatens to run the risk of one of England’s quicks breaking down and so reduce their chances of a morale-boosting series win.
“Ever since Graeme Swann stood down… we knew we had to rebalance the team, look at different options for the summer and beyond,” Whitaker said.
“We think we’ve got a good balance now for the type of wickets we play on in England. Moeen will help the spin department and so will Joe Root.
“It’s a different way of balancing the team…We have faith in Moeen and think he’ll perform well.”
England squad: Alastair Cook (Essex, capt), Sam Robson (Middlesex), Gary Ballance (Yorkshire), Ian Bell (Warwickshire), Joe Root (Yorkshire), Moeen Ali (Worcestershire), Matt Prior (Sussex, wkt), Chris Jordan (Sussex), Stuart Broad (Nottinghamshire), Liam Plunkett (Yorkshire), James Anderson (Lancashire), Ben Stokes (Durham), Chris Woakes (Warwickshire)