Cape Town: Joe Root called Ben Stokes England's "golden nugget." The message was: The team should treasure him.
Stokes left a huge mark on another Test with a resounding all-around display in England's win over South Africa at Newlands on Tuesday.
His five catches in the first innings were record-equaling. His impact with the bat was game-turning. And his final act, a burst of three wickets in 14 deliveries with the ball, was match-winning to drag England over the line and give them a first win in Cape Town since 1957.
“He’s a golden nugget, isn’t he?" England captain Root said. “He’s just a fantastic specimen, really."
No doubt Stokes is the best allrounder in world cricket right now. And he put it all on show in Cape Town.
The five catches at second slip in the first innings equalled the world record and made him the first England fielder — not including wicketkeepers — to do that. His destructive 72 off 47 balls with the bat took the game away from South Africa.
And then, when England needed someone to lead it home, it was Stokes. Bowling at the death against a South Africa team that kept holding out, he knocked over the last resistance to make England only the second visiting team after Australia to win a Test in Cape Town since the end of apartheid.
Batting, bowling and fielding. Yet, there's another element to his game: Always putting England before himself.
Stokes was given the man of the match award at Newlands. There wasn't any argument with that from anyone — except from Stokes himself.
Stokes refused to keep the award and gave it instead to Dom Sibley for the inexperienced opening batsman's 133 not out in England's second innings. Stokes tried to get Sibley up to the post-match presentation to take the award. Sibley refused but Stokes still made sure he got it.
“So we are sitting next to each other in the dressing room and I walked in, gave it to him and he put it in my place. I went 'no', and put it in his bag,” Stokes said. “I walked back in and it was back in my bag. I said ‘you’ve shafted me once by making me do the interviews, if it ends up back in my spot we are never sitting next to each other again.’ He has got it now.”
While praising Stokes as a “born match-winner,” Root underlined the valuable impact Stokes has on players around him, as well as on games.
“(He) will always put the team first and give everything to the team of players he’s playing beside,” Root said. “There’s not many sides that have a Ben Stokes. We’re very lucky to be witnessing what we are at the moment.”
It was almost the perfect display by an allrounder.
“I don’t know really, I don’t really think about it like that,” said Stokes. "I’m always wanting to do something in the moment of a game and the best thing about being an allrounder is that there are four innings in a Test match so four opportunities to influence a game. I will always try to do that. Some days you will have games where you do (nothing) ... so you take it as it comes.”
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