Stokes wants support for Archer as England aim to keep Windies under pressure
England will be hoping to convert scoreboard pressure into West Indian wickets on day three of the second Test but centurion Ben Stokes has stressed the importance of throwing the side’s collective support behind Jofra Archer.
After losing the #raisethebat series opener at the Ageas Bowl, it is essential that the hosts win in Manchester this week if they are to reclaim the Wisden Trophy.
Stokes’ superb 176 and a studious 120 from Dom Sibley steered England to 469 for nine declared at Emirates Old Trafford, with Sam Curran prising out John Campbell late on the second evening as the tourists replied with 32 for one.
Curran would almost certainly have missed out on selection had Archer not indulged an unauthorised trip to Brighton at the start of the week, breaching strict bio-security protocols and earning himself a five-day stint in self-isolation rather than a ninth Test cap.
After doing everything in his power to set things up on the pitch, Stokes was equally concerned about his friend and team-mate, who is awaiting additional disciplinary action as he enters his third day of solitude at Old Trafford.
“We really need to be there to support Jofra right now,” said Stokes.
“Obviously he’s a big talking point and he is by himself because of everything else going on at the moment. It’s about making sure that it doesn’t feel like he’s by himself. The worst thing we could do right now as a team is just leave him.
“It’s all good being there for people when things are going well and smoothly but what really comes through is how you operate with someone when they need you the most.”
Stokes made no reference to the difficulties he has experienced in his own career, but knows better than most what it feels like to be at the eye of a storm.
“At times like this people are very, very tough and you can feel like you are all by yourself, but I don’t think anybody is going to allow that to happen,” he said.
“Jofra’s a massive part of this group, as everybody is. If it was anybody else bar Jofra it would be exactly the same.”
Stokes was speaking after his second highest score in England colours, an outstanding all-round batting display that included 17 fours and two sixes but also long periods of deep concentration.
He and Sibley added 260 for the fourth wicket, well over half the team’s total runs in one partnership, but he took his share of the work in his stride.
“Numbers, figures…I don’t really care. The main number for me is how many wins,” he said.
“I was more buzzing that I faced 300 balls than I was when I got to my hundred, that’s something I never thought I’d be capable of.
“I feel at an age and an experience level where I really understand my game pretty much all the time and I try not to get carried away.”
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