Ben Stokes has been backed to be a mainstay of future England teams – by the national bowling coach.
Unless Graham Onions gets the nod this morning, Chester-le-Street’s first Ashes Test will be its first five-day game not to feature a Durham player.
But bowling coach David Saker believes all-rounder Stokes can be the next player to graduate from Durham’s academy into Test cricket.
“I’ve seen enough of Ben Stokes to know what he can do with the ball and the bat — he’s an exciting player,” said the Australian.
“He’s still learning his game, but I believe he can play a really important part for the England cricket team long-term. He’s the sort of player who is ideal and that we need in our team.”
Since his one-day debut in 2011, Stokes’ bowling has improved much more than his batting. He is yet to score a County Championship century this year, but his batting was the highlight last week of Durham’s Twenty20 Cup campaign. His hostile bowling has claimed 32 wickets in this season’s Championship at an average of 25 – many of them crucial.
Stokes has made nine white-ball appearances for his country, but is yet to feature in Test cricket.
He was sent home in disgrace from England Lions’ winter tour of Australia with Kent’s Matt Coles after a few too many late-night drinking sessions. But his selection for this summer’s Twenty20 series against New Zealand suggested the outrageously-talented 22-year-old is out of the bad books and back in his country’s thoughts.
He has been invited to Ashes nets sessions this summer so that Saker and batting coach Graham Gooch can monitor his progress.
Saker said in an interview with The Sun’s website: “He’s a lot quicker than people give him credit for. When he bats he takes the game to the opposition.”
Meanwhile, Stokes has been named in the England Lions squad to face Bangladesh in three one-day matches, starting on August 20. He misses Durham’s home Championship game with Surrey.