Botham pretty much in awe of Stokes


Former captain Ian Botham has lavishly lauded all-rounder Ben Stokes, as England prepare for the third Test against South Africa, which will get underway in Centurion next week.

Stokes scored a record-breaking double-century in the second Test at Newlands in Cape Town, where a draw left the tourists with a one-nil lead in the four-match series.

The hard-hitting right-hander's swashbuckling 258 spanned a mere 198 deliveires – and featured 30 fours and a resounding 11 sixes.

"As a player, he's probably better than I was at 24. What I did was yesterday's news, what he did is today's news," said Botham.

"He is not a jack of all trades and master of none. He is actually probably master of the three most important assets you need: batting, bowling and fielding.

"His bowling can only get better. He has all the attributes: he has pace; he can swing the ball; he can reverse it; he can bowl orthodox. And he is terrific fielder close to the bat, in the covers or midwicket, backward point, on the boundary.

"It was fun. And Ben Stokes will be enjoying it as well. He'll see it as fun as well. You walk out and you empty the bars rather then fill them and it's a nice feeling. Then you get out and you see them all going back in for a beer and you think 'sorry, lads: can't do it every day.' And he can't do it every day, either. That's what people have to remember. You have to give him the right to fail."

The recalled Jonny Bairstow, who has replaced fellow wicketkeeper-batsman Jos Buttler, has impressed Botham too.

Bairstow welcomed a maiden Test century at Newlands, sharing a superb 399-run stand for the sixth-wicket alongside the New Zealand-born Stokes.

"I think Jonny offers a lot to English cricket. I have always been a fan of his. He was a rough diamond three years ago but you knew those skills were there," added Botham.

"He only put one down one chance and it wasn't easy. He also had the first stumping for three years by an English wicketkeeper in Durban. I think there are more pluses than negatives. He works very hard at his game and he will only get better. I genuinely think he is good enough."