Stokes Rewarded With Second Chance

All-rounder was sent home from Lions tour in disgrace. England could play second spinner in Adelaide Test

Published: 29th November 2013 11:37 AM  |   Last Updated: 29th November 2013 11:37 AM   |  A+A-


Andy Flower is a coach who offers errant players second chances and next week Ben Stokes could complete a remarkable comeback for a player sent home in disgrace from his last trip to Australia 10 months ago.

Before Jonathan Trott's departure it looked as if Stokes would spend the series gaining experience watching from afar but now he could make his Test debut at the Adelaide Oval as England ponder their best team for a crucial match.

It is some turnaround for a player sent home from the Lions tour for breaking team curfews and late night drinking. But, despite the tough guy image, Flower is a coach who offers second chances. Just ask Samit Patel and Kevin Pietersen, two players who have fallen foul of his standards but returned to the side.

Stokes knew he had to convince Flower he had changed and responded by helping Durham to the Championship and winning the PCA and Cricket Writers' Club young player of the year awards.

"I guess if you ever get on his bad side he is willing to put that behind him and everyone just has to put the hard work in and do the right things by the right people," said Stokes, who was due to play for England today (Friday) against the Chairman's XI in Alice Springs.

"I obviously came out here to put my name forward and try to get into the Test team. I had a bit of a taste of it in the one-day stuff which was brilliant. I hadn't thought to myself I'm going out there for the experience I had to be working my hardest and trying to make sure I'm putting my hand up.

"Obviously what happened was not great, something that I wasn't proud of. But I did set myself out to change it all round and get Andy Flower thinking this guy's serious in what he wants to do. Put in the hard work and you get rewards, and this has been a great reward for myself."

Stokes has a chance of playing next week as he vies for a place with Jonny Bairstow and Gary Ballance. He has an added advantage over the two Yorkshiremen. By his own admission his batting is his strength but knows being able to do two jobs helps his chances for selection. "Just all-rounder, that'll do," he said when asked how he wants to be viewed.

England have long coveted an all-rounder at No?6 and looked with envious eyes at a player such as Shane Watson, who is capable of scoring hundreds and chip in to with wickets to help out a four-man bowling attack.

A flat deck is expected next week even though the Adelaide Oval will be a drop-in pitch for the first time in a Test match. The ground may have a radical new look but Keith Bradshaw, the former MCC chief executive who now runs South Australia Cricket, has tried to retain the character traits of the playing surface.

"It is something we have been mindful of all the way through the redevelopment, not trying to change the nature of the game that is played at Adelaide Oval," he said.

That means a good batting pitch and an extra bowler may be particularly useful for England. Playing Stokes could also open up the possibility of picking Monty Panesar as a second spinner, although a fit Tim Bresnan would rule that out.

Despite its reputation, the Adelaide Oval produces results, only three of the last 15 Tests having been draws, and a second spinner could be a useful weapon in the fourth innings of a match on a drop-in pitch that could turn with wear.

If Stokes does play, he expects to receive plenty of verbals from the Australian team, who will no doubt remind him of his New Zealand heritage, his parents having recently returned to live in Christchurch.

"Yes it would be pretty obvious wouldn't it? If it does come up I would just laugh because I'm out here playing with the Three Lions," said Stokes. "If they decide to get into that I'll get back to them in Geordie slang and they won't understand us.

"The intensity was really high in the first Test. I got a buzz just sat there with the bib on taking the drinks out. It was a great experience. It is the first time I have experienced Ashes cricket and will be something I never forget."


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