Ben Stokes is content to drop down order

Ben Stokes is enjoying his new role as Durham’s Twenty20 finisher. It is a job the 22-year-old will take on again at Nottinghamshire’s Trent Bridge tonight.

Stu Forster/Getty Images Lancashire keeper Gareth Cross looks on as Durham batsman Ben Stokes hits out
Lancashire keeper Gareth Cross looks on as Durham batsman Ben Stokes hits out

Few on the county circuit can hit the ball as hard or as far as all-rounder Stokes.

Initially Durham tried to use of that by getting him in early against the hard, new ball. But increasingly limited- overs tactics have focused on saving the pyrotechnics until late in the innings.

With that in mind, Stokes has dropped down the order into his four- day position at No.5. It has provided him with some welcome clarity.

“In the first two years I was going in at three, four, five or six,” he said. “Now I’m comfortable with where I’m batting.

“I know what sort of role I’m going to be playing. I’ve got to work on that in practice and hopefully all the hard work I’m doing in training will show on the pitch.

“It’s definitely helped knowing your role and the situations you’re going to be put into. Near enough I’m going to be going in with ten overs left.

“I’ve got to start off trying to get a run a ball for maybe the first 10 balls, then try and explode after that. A couple of times I’ve got in and done that.”

As shown by their excellent YB40 form, Durham have adjusted well to the new thinking in 40-over cricket at least. Scott Borthwick and Paul Collingwood have been able to lay a platform once the openers are out, allowing Stokes and the rest freedom later on.

Whether using the same balance in Twenty20 cricket is too cautious is open to debate, but the value of big-hitters down the order is indisputable. “Having a strong lower-middle order definitely helps at the end of a Twenty20 game or a 50-over game,” Stokes argued. “It can take your score (in the latter) from 260 to above 300.

“At No.3 you generally go out in the powerplay with only two fielders out. Later on there’s five.

“You’ve got to back yourself to get it in the gap for four or six.

“We’ve got a really long batting line- up with powerful hitters at the bottom order, so that does fill you with confidence knowing you can go out there and express yourself.

“It’s not an excuse to think, ‘If I get out here it doesn’t really matter’ because you want to do well.” Like the team as a whole, Stokes has fared much better in 40 than 20-over cricket, averaging more than twice as much (40) with the bat in the former. “Twenty20’s a game where it either comes off or it doesn’t,” he shrugs, adopting the defence mechanism essential in that form of cricket.

Durham have lost four of their six games in this season’s Twenty20 Cup, in stark contrast to their excellent form in all other cricket.

But Stokes insists their 20-over struggles have done nothing to dampen Durham morale. With Collingwood and Graham Onions making welcome returns to the squad, the mood should anyway be better at Trent Bridge,

“We always have a feel-good factor in the dressing room because it’s a great set of lads,” Stokes argued. “We don’t let ourselves get too down or get our feet too high off the ground. We’re very good at handling defeat and success as well.

“Coming from a sporting background (Stokes’ dad Ged is a rugby league coach) it’s just something you’re brought up on. It helps that everyone else in the dressing room is like that as well.

“We’re flying high in the Championship. Scott Borthwick’s come into a new role batting at No.3, where he’s been absolutely outstanding for us.

“Keaton (Jennings) showed what he could do in the last four-day game, scoring over 200 runs.

“There’s a lot of back-up when some guys aren’t doing so well, which is why we’re still doing well.”

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