HOW GOOD WAS BEN STOKES?
By Tendulkar Middlesex Global Academy Head Coach, Josh Knappett
How good was Ben Stokes 135* at Headingley to win England the game and keep the Ashes alive.
Here are some of his amazing stats from the game
135 not out off 219 balls (330 mins, 11x4’s, 8x6’s)
3 runs off first 73 balls
Last 84 runs came from 67 balls
Last wicket partnership 76
Jack leach faced only 17 balls in an hour (for 1*)
Chased down 359 to level the series 1-1 with 2 to play.
The stats will always stand out, as a way of bullet pointing our memories of such a fantastic game of cricket. Key moments will remember such as:
The poor review from Australia when Jack Leach was batting at the end,
The umpires misjudgement on his view of the LBW appeal with England still 1 run behind.
England being bowled out in the first innings for 67
England needing to achieve their highest ever run chase in Test Match cricket to win the game
Before I comment on how I viewed the brilliance of Ben Stokes, let’s not ever forget the brilliant work from other England batters through key moments. Root’s 77 off 205 balls in 322 mins, Denly’s 50 off 155 balls in 237 mins, even Bairstow's 36 across almost 2 hours of batting to get through the second new ball.
Getting through the night before with Root and Stokes. When chasing a large score, especially when needing the highest score of the game, to get through to bookmarks like the 'end of a session', and 'end of the day' without precious top-order wickets lost is a huge achievement and contributing factor to the day. And no doubt, getting through the World Cup final in the way we did, would have certainly helped the team and individuals with spirit and belief.
So what did Stokes really do?
He did all the cliche stuff brilliantly. He built his innings. He got in. Wore the bowlers down. Built partnerships, and batted with tail. Accelerated at the right time, picked his bowlers and dominated in his strength areas. Took the game deep and got the team over the line. Technically he can be solid in defence and trust his way of avoiding losing his wicket, whilst also having the skills and method of scoring. He ran between the wickets brilliantly (apart from a couple of little blips) to rotate and keep the strike, and hit his boundaries when needed (even with all fielders on the ropes if they weren’t in the slip cordon). What would you rather be; selfish, or selfless? Stokes has taken all of the headlines (apart from Leach and his free glasses for life) because it was him, who has seemingly done this single-handedly! He will be remembered as the hero, the icon, the warrior who got us over the line. His 135 will stay in the record books for years against his name - so individually he has shown how good he is (being selfish pays off for the individual), yet his individual performance benefited the team… So in that sense, it was selfless to devote his entire innings to his team, to help keep his team in the game, the series alive and belief in the country. He has shown, that cricket is a team game played by individuals - so be both selfish and selfless. Benefit the team and benefit yourself equally. Stokes’ performance will keep him being selected, will keep him in the team, in the roles he prefers doing, and the team will benefit as a result too.
How did he do it?
It’s all about being in the zone. Stokes lived in the moment. He didn’t care about what had gone on, what he achieved, what was in the past (which was a lot). Nor did he look too far ahead into the future. As a viewer we see the landmarks like personal 50’s, 100’s, team scores reaching 200, 250, 300, we also see the runs required in chunks, down to 100 left, then 99 left, then 50 left, then 10 left… but Stokes saw past all those distractions that set our hearts racing! He lived in the zone throughout the whole innings. At lunch, he walked into the changing room and said “that whole last 2 hours are in the past. Don't think about those any more, let’s just focus on the next session”. Being in the zone is knowing how to act, how to behave, appropriate to where you are in time, understanding the challenges and scenario, then being able to process all information around you without conscious thought. Being in the zone is when people perform subconsciously, they trust their reactions, action on their plan and process. They have a distorted view on time, things that take a long time, seem to pass with a flash, however, the moment they are living in are slow, controlled, and purposeful. There is no place for emotion when you are in the zone. Some find it hard to or don't want to communicate too much verbally at risk they’ll overcomplicate and distract themselves, or simply because they don’t know how to verbalise what they are going through other than the mantra’s that are getting them through “one ball after another” “keep going” “you’ve got this”, etc.
How to do it yourself.
Players need to be exposed to opportunities like this in a scaled-back way through their development. They need to develop the skills of attacking and defending, they need to be exposed to pressure and have skills to cope and manage performance through it, they need to understand the brilliance and nuance of the game and what is required to perform successfully, they need to learn in an environment that is fun, supportive, educational and individual to help them get the best out of themselves. Here at TMGA, we are proud of the curriculum that Middlesex Cricket and Sachin Tendulkar have developed together to help young players develop their necessary skills to perform. The great thing about our curriculum is that we help players become better people as well as better cricketers. We develop a fit and healthy person with confidence, self-belief and positive skills that transcend across academics, corporate business and sport.
To sign up to our academy or future camp activities, please see our website www.camptendulkarmga.com