Sport

Ben Stokes praises England’s ‘amazing team performance’ against South Africa

A beaming Ben Stokes hailed England’s bouncebackability after thrashing South Africa by an innings in less than three days in the second Test at Old Trafford, just a week after losing by the same amount at Lord’s. “It was an amazing team performance all round,” he said.

“The way in which we bounced back from the disappointment last week was very pleasing. Cricket is about how you bat, bowl and field and I think that the way we batted, bowled and fielded all game is like the benchmark of the standards which we set. The energy throughout the whole week didn’t drop.”

Stokes, who won the player of the match award, backed up his century with a Herculean bowling spell of 14 overs either side of tea. He dismissed the adhesive Keegan Petersen and Rassie van der Dussen in successive overs just after the break – after they had kept England waiting for 43 overs in a stubborn stand of 87 that gave nothing away.

“When you are bowling with the older ball, when nothing is really happening, you have to create your own energies and your own theatre around that,” said Stokes. “It’s something I’ve done over my career with the older ball, just to try and run in and hit the wicket as hard as I can and try and make something out of nothing. Then let the new-ball bowlers take the rewards at the end.’

Once Stokes had seen off the middle-order resistance, the end when it came was rapid, with South Africa losing five wickets for seven runs in 30 balls. Jimmy Anderson and Ollie Robinson mopped up with the new ball to the glee of a raucous Old Trafford.

Stokes had particular praise for Ollie Robinson, who was noticeably a stronger and fitter bowler than in his previous England incarnation seven months ago.

“Robbo came into this game and showed his class. He’s also taken the criticism that he received, and flipped that around. We know what a good bowler he is but the question marks around his fitness and being able to maintain his energy and pace, he’s completely thrown that away now.

“In private we had some conversations. He’s gone away, worked incredibly hard to get himself back here and I almost see that as a new start for Ollie Robinson. He’s a phenomenally skilful bowler but this game he showed we can throw the ball to him and get exactly the same in his third and fourth spell as we get in his first spell.”

There was praise, too, for Anderson, Zak Crawley, Ben Foakes and Stuart Broad – who took on the chin the decision to prise him away from the new-ball partnership with Anderson. “It is something I spoke to Broady about on the way back from golf, potentially giving Robbo the new ball because of the feedback we got from the Lions game.

“For years Jimmy and Broady have taken the new ball and for Broady to understand the bigger picture about why I wanted that to be the option was an absolute credit to him.”