All eyes on ‘action hero’ Stokes in the Ashes


Ben Stokes is poised to make his eagerly awaited return to international cricket in the Ashes — and for England it is not a moment too soon.

The charismatic all-rounder has not played a competitive match since July, when he took an indefinite break to focus on his mental health and to rest an injured finger.

Returning to duty

But in October he made himself available for the five-Test series in Australia, which starts in Brisbane next Wednesday, and was duly added to an England squad captained by Joe Root, a close friend.

It was a decision greeted with widespread joy by England fans, who had feared their side could be fatally weakened without Stokes in Australia, where the hosts are unbeaten in their past 10 Ashes Tests.

Stokes’ figures — he has scored 4,631 runs, including 10 hundreds in 71 Tests at an average of just over 37 and taken 163 wickets at 31.38 — are solid rather than spectacular. But look beyond the numbers and there is a cricketer capable of match-changing spells with both bat and ball, as well as a brilliant close-catcher.

Stokes led the charge with a match-winning 135 not out in England’s astounding one-wicket win over Australia at Headingley in 2019, an innings that has entered cricket folklore.

Yet by that stage he had already made a telling impact with his lively fast-medium bowling, taking three wickets to keep England — dismissed for just 67 in the first innings — in the game.

That stupendous innings in Leeds came just over a month after Stokes won the Man-of-the-Match award for an unbeaten 84 in the World Cup final at Lord’s, where England triumphed against New Zealand.

Stokes made his Test debut in the second match of the 2013-14 Ashes in Australia, which England lost 5-0.

Stokes’ career was put on pause in September 2017 following a fracas outside a nightclub that same month.

The mainstay

Stokes reminded the Australians he was still a force to be reckoned with when they toured England in 2019, scoring two centuries including his astonishing Headingley innings in the drawn series. He has become a mainstay of the England batting line-up.

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