Stokes bandwagon heads to Headingley
With the two-Test series between England and New Zealand taking place over back-to-back weekends, the momentum from Lord's could prove decisive. One player in particular was the catalyst for England's dramatic come-from-behind victory and his name was again the focus as the teams moved to Headingley and began preparations for Friday.
Ben Stokes scored 92 and 101, in the process recording the fastest Test hundred at Lord's, before taking three wickets on Monday afternoon to help seal a 124-run win. His Man-of-the-Match contribution was the most eye-catching among several impressive individual performances on either side and he will likely be the centre of attention once again when the second Test begins.
England had been reduced to 30 for 4 on the first morning at Lord's, before a 161-run stand between Stokes and Joe Root helped them to a competitive first-innings total. Root, only a few months older than Stokes but already Alastair Cook's vice-captain, said Stokes' full-blooded commitment set the tone for the fightback that put England 1-0 up in the series and ignited their start to the international summer.
"When he is bowling, he will run in until he can barely move any more - if he is given that choice," Root said. "When he is batting, he is a free spirit, he goes and plays his shots and puts sides under pressure. In the field, he is dynamic, he can field anywhere.
"He is one of those blokes you want in the side because he rubs off on you and gives everything."
Over the course of his two innings, Stokes cracked 30 fours and four sixes, clearly showing the benefits of moving up the batting order to No. 6. A year ago, Stokes made a pair at Lord's against India, to make it three Test ducks in a row, and he then missed out on a place at the World Cup after a disappointing tour of Sri Lanka. His confidence seems to have returned, particularly with the bat; now the challenge is to deliver consistent match-turning performances.
"It is great. If he is going, you know the board is always going to be ticking over - you don't have to worry about that," Root said of Stokes' aggressive approach. "You know the bowlers will be under pressure, because he is always looking to score. That is the art of batting - to try and make sure you are on top.'
"Even in times of struggle, when we are 30 for 4, he came out and put them on the back foot. It will not work every time and could have looked slightly reckless if it didn't come off.
"But it is the way he plays and what he brings to the side, and why he was picked to bat at No. 6, to put them under pressure. He did that perfectly. The key for him and the rest of us now is to make sure it is not a one-off and go on and do it again this week.
"He makes mistakes now and again - but that is why he is the player he is. He is aggressive; he is always in your face... that's his personality. For him, it is about making sure he can control it in a way which makes him more consistent."
Root also shone at Lord's, with scores of 98 and 84 as well as a crucial wicket on the final day, while Mark Wood, one of two debutants, bowled above 90mph and picked up four wickets, and Jos Buttler and Moeen Ali made important contributions. Root said it was further proof that England have a depth of talent for new coach, Trevor Bayliss, to work with.
"We have a lot of young and exciting players trying to establish themselves in the side," he said. "The more they do that, the more those little errors will creep out of our game.
"That confidence doesn't just give them a boost, it gives everyone a boost, it rubs off. Fingers crossed, Lord's was not just a one-off - and it is the start of us moving forward as a side."
Martin Guptill, who made 70 in his first Test innings since Headingley 2013, conceded that New Zealand would need to come up with a plan to try and deal with Stokes. They may have to make changes to their personnel, too, with Corey Anderson and BJ Watling unable to train on Wednesday due to injuries. Watling's absence could mean a Test debut at 34 for Luke Ronchi, while Anderson missing out would deprive the crowds of a big-hitting battle with Stokes.
"He's turned himself into one of England's better allrounders, that they've had for a while," Guptill said. "He's a very aggressive player, likes to come out and play his shots and hits it cleanly. We'll come up with some plans to be able to counter that this week.
"We're pretty confident we can come out and square the series, and come away pretty happy. On the last day at Lord's, we just didn't quite get the batting right. We're going to come out this week firing, and hope to rectify that. It was very disappointing. Obviously, we came over here wanting to win the series. But you've got to be able to bounce back pretty quickly."