Ben Stokes does not fear for future of Test cricket amid Ashes excitement
England captain Ben Stokes can feel the excitement building ahead of the Ashes and is in no doubt over the long-term future of Test cricket.
Stokes’ side begin their summer of red-ball assignments on Thursday when they face Ireland in a four-day Test at Lord’s.
Eyebrows were raised ahead of the Ashes precursor when Ireland left out star bowler Josh Little, with the seamer ordered to rest after a successful Indian Premier League spell with runners-up Gujarat Titans ahead of next month’s 50-over World Cup qualification tournament.
Cricket Ireland’s high performance director Richard Holdsworth defended their decision by insisting the Lord’s Test was not a “pinnacle event” to draw further concerns over the future of international red-ball cricket with more and more franchise leagues filling the cricket calendar.
Stokes, who admitted he can understand Holdsworth’s comments, said: “I’ve always been a huge advocate of the Test format.
“The whole landscape and the whole game of cricket is literally just changing in front of everyone’s eyes so quickly.
“I see T20 and Test cricket being able to keep being successful and progress side by side.
“Look at what T20 has done for the game in general, the amount of attraction it’s brought – new fans, new players its brought into playing cricket regardless of the format and also what T20 has been able to bring in terms of Test cricket.
“The transition between the two games is so different but at certain periods in Test matches you do see that T20 side come out, which is only because the players have been playing it.
“So, I don’t see a world where T20 and Tests aren’t being played in the future.
“I don’t know what this build-up period before the Ashes is like compared to 2005, no idea, but it’s very hard to ignore and not be able to see the excitement.”
England’s aggressive ‘Bazball’ style has helped them put Test cricket at the forefront of the conversation over the past 12 months.
After winning 10 of their 12 matches since Stokes and head coach Brendon McCullum took over the red-ball team last May, all eyes are on what England can achieve when the stakes are at its highest this summer after they have hit conventional thinking for six during the past year.
England scored at 5.50 runs an over to post 506 for four on day one in Rawalpindi during the 3-0 series win in Pakistan.
Asked if a 500-run day in the Ashes is possible, Stokes replied: “Be alright, wouldn’t it? Anything is possible I think if you have the backing to go out and do it.
“The thing about letting guys go out and be free and stuff like that is that you just don’t know where their ability ends, if that makes sense.
“I think what we have seen over the last year is that the same players who have been playing for a while go to a lot higher in terms of their potential and them understanding they might be better than they thought they were. I think that is totally down to the mindset switch.”
Stokes’ own preparation for this enormous summer was spent in India at the IPL, but he only played twice and bowled one over.
However, the 31-year-old has viewed his “John Terry role” as a “blessing in disguise” with the spell with eventual-champions Chennai Super Kings time well spent after he worked on his batting and managed his workload.
He feels the latter will be key to ensuring he is able to play a full role with the ball when Australia rock up at Edgbaston for the Ashes opener.
“The knee is in a much better place than it was in Wellington,” Stokes reflected.
“I’ve been in India for the IPL over the last nine to 10 weeks but what I have done is get myself into a position where I am not able to look back and regret or say I have not given myself the best opportunity to play a full role with the ball this summer.”
James Anderson, who along with Ollie Robinson is being rested for this Test, was also referenced as a template for Stokes to follow throughout the Ashes with his energy set to be spent bowling on the field, rather than in training.
“Jimmy’s an unbelievable example of being able to manage his workload and everything he does away from it, then obviously he’s been delivering for years out on the field,” Stokes said.
Durham are Division Two champions after bowling out Worcestershire
With promotion already secured last week, Durham required a maximum of five points to clinch top spot.
Phil Salt knows there is plenty to play for ahead of the World Cup
Salt’s aggressive ball-striking and ability to double up as a wicketkeeper has earned him plenty of interest on the franchise circuit.
Jason Roy rejects England call as Tom Kohler-Cadmore added to squad
The experienced opener was ruthlessly dropped from the squad for next month’s World Cup despite being named in the provisional 15.
England frustrated at damp Headingley as first Ireland ODI is abandoned
The match was officially abandoned more than four hours and several inspections after the scheduled start time.
England’s ODI with Ireland at Headingley abandoned due to rain
No play was possible in the first of three ODIs between the teams as they warm-up for the Cricket World Cup.
Adam Rossington century rescues Essex against Hampshire
Rossington contributed 104 to an important 177-run stand with all-rounder Critchley.
Jos Buttler felt a sense of duty to inform Jason Roy of World Cup omission
Harry Brook was preferred to Roy in the final squad.
England captain Zak Crawley happy to have Joe Root available against Ireland
Root is the only member of the first-choice squad taking on the Irish in the series opener at Headingley on Wednesday.
The talking points ahead of England’s three-match one-day series against Ireland
The hosts are carrying a fresh-faced squad after ringing the changes ahead of the World Cup.