Stokes eager to bowl to relieve boredom

Ben Stokes hopes to return to bowling in the third ODI of the series against Pakistan having recovered from injury

George Dobell
George Dobell
Ben Stokes started to find his stride with the bat at Lord's  •  Getty Images

Ben Stokes started to find his stride with the bat at Lord's  •  Getty Images

Ben Stokes hopes to return to bowling in the third ODI of the series against Pakistan having recovered from injury.
Stokes has played in the first two matches as a specialist batsman - a decision he admits was something of a surprise given the form of Jonny Bairstow - but has bowled at full pace in training in recent days and feels he will be able to play a full-part with the ball at Trent Bridge on Tuesday.
He has endured an injury ravaged summer. Having had to pull out of the Sri Lanka series with a knee injury that required surgery, he limped out of his comeback game in international cricket, the second Test at Old Trafford against Pakistan, after sustaining a calf injury.
"The plan from the start was to be fit and ready to bowl by the third ODI," Stokes said. "By the way things are going it is looking likely I will be an option for Eoin Morgan in Nottingham if needed.
"I have done all the prep to get myself fit and put my hand up and say I am ready to bowl. I bowled for about 15 minutes flat out and all the build-up stuff I needed to do has been done."
The selection of Stokes ahead of various other batting options is intriguing. He is, after all, averaging an underwhelming 22.48 after 41 ODIs.
But the England management talk highly of the energy and edge he gives the side - an edge they felt was badly missed when the Test team were defeated by Pakistan at The Oval recently - and see him as a key player at both the Champions Trophy in 2017 and the World Cup of 2019. For that reason, they are keen to provide further opportunities for him to learn his trade as an ODI batsman reasoning that his potential justifies a prolonged apprenticeship.
While Stokes admits his selection as a specialist batsman was a surprise, he also found it a boost to his confidence. And even though he confesses he finds 50 overs in the field without bowling "boring," he accepts that the extra time to work on his batting has probably been no bad thing.
"I was a bit surprised I got the nod ahead of Jonny," Stokes said. "Since South Africa he has shown amazing form. But at the same time it's nice to get that confidence from your captain and coach saying we want you to play as a specialist batsman.
"Not bowling makes the fielding innings seem a lot longer. It's so boring. If you bowl 10 overs, it kind of takes 20 overs out of the game for you.
"But knowing I wasn't going to bowl in these first two games, I worked longer on my batting in the build-up days. It's normally quite hard to get everything into training that I want, so it's been quite nice to solely concentrate on the batting in these first two games. But I will be going into the next training session trying to put my hand up and say I am fit to bowl."
Given England's winter schedule - with Test and limited-overs series looming against Bangladesh and India - it bodes well that Stokes feels that his batting against spin, in particular, has progressed. He struggled in the three Test series in the UAE last year - he averaged just 14.66 and was dismissed by spin in four of his six innings, although two of them was with a badly damaged shoulder - but greater trust in his defence has given him the confidence to believe he doesn't have to attack the spinners as a default position.
"I think sometimes I have been drawn into trying to be too aggressive too early," Stokes said. "So something that I have learnt is that I can give myself time. I don't need to be going out and reverse sweeping and sweeping for four and six. I can just try to rotate the strike. Singles are just as valuable as boundaries if you are rotating the strike and not letting the bowlers settle.
"I have also worked hard on my defensive game. After the UAE tour where I struggled against the spin, I knew it was something I needed to work on."

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo