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News

Ben Stokes: 'This is what me and Brendon are trying to work towards'

New captain acknowledges success won't come overnight but pleased with winning start

Valkerie Baynes
Valkerie Baynes
05-Jun-2022
Ben Stokes addresses the England huddle, England vs New Zealand, 1st Test, Day 1, Lord's, June 2, 2022

Ben Stokes oversaw England's first Test win in ten matches  •  Getty Images

Two players, great mates, both winners. But the contrast in the joy expressed by Ben Stokes and Joe Root over England's first-Test victory over New Zealand was palpable at Lord's on Sunday.
Root, by his own admission, unburdened by the captaincy - not so much in terms of his personal performance after notching up yet another century, his 26th in Tests to bring up 10,000 runs - but free from all the sundries wrapped up in the role he relinquished after the ill-fated spring tour of the Caribbean, looked like a man thoroughly relieved.
Stokes, on the other hand, exuded all the enthusiasm of a man who had just won his first game since taking over the captaincy and starting work with new coach Brendon McCullum, along with the resolve of a leader who knows his team has "a long road ahead of us".
"It's not an overnight thing," Stokes said. "This is what me and Brendon are trying to work towards and we know that, but a great start to win."
So while England heralded a new era with victory - ending a run of nine Tests without - it wasn't a complete turnaround. Some of the old problems remain.
They were bowled out for 141 in their first innings, only marginally better than New Zealand's 132, and they were 69 for 4 in their second, chasing 277, before Stokes and Root steadied things with a 90-run partnership for the fifth wicket. Root and Ben Foakes then sealed the result just over an hour into the fourth day with an unbroken stand of 120.
But, as can be expected, Stokes seems to have genuinely bought into all that McCullum has introduced in terms of mindset and tactics. For example, Stokes revealed that the plan had been to send Stuart Broad in at No. 8, ahead of debutant Matthew Potts, if needed on the third evening.
"When Foakesy went out to bat, he was going to send Broady in if we lost the wicket to go and have a slog, just to score 30, 40 runs, game's done," Stokes said. "That's the kind of stuff that we're not used to in the dressing room. Those kinds of things filtering around will do us the world of good.
"The confidence and the energy that he brings about, his mindset towards the game, he's just going to make everybody feel 10-foot tall in any situation that we're in and I've really enjoyed working with him so far this week."
Towards the end of Root's tenure, during the failed Ashes campaign, there was a sense that his working relationship with veteran seamers Broad and James Anderson had soured and, sure enough, the duo were dropped for the tour of West Indies.
One of the first moves by the new regime was to bring the two straight back into the fold to face New Zealand, and Anderson and Potts took four wickets apiece in the first innings while Broad's three wickets, particularly his two in three balls as part of a team hat-trick, turned the match on its head during the third morning.
Asked what he was most proud of during his first match at the helm, Stokes highlighted his use of Anderson, Broad and Durham team-mate Potts.
"Everybody knows what Jimmy and Broady are all about," he said. "The only difference in the role that Matty played was obviously he normally takes the new ball for Durham. But throughout the whole summer, Scotty [Borthwick], Durham's captain, has turned to him to get the wicket, to get the breakthrough, to change the game, and that's how I wanted to use him this week. And he did it every time I chucked him the ball.
"Always looking to be positive and just really staying true to what I was saying and how I want to captain and not letting the game dictate what I did. I was just making sure that I still stuck to my guns and was always looking to be positive in the way that I wanted the bowlers to bowl, the fields that I set... stick to everything that you've been talking about because you know actions speak louder than words."
Stokes was full of praise for Root, but also Foakes, who played a mature knock for his 32 not out from 92 balls.
"We're not in a position to not select world-class players at the moment," said Stokes, "and Ben is the best wicketkeeper in the world. That's not just my own opinion, that's a lot of people's opinions.
"Batting at seven, which he does for England, is different to the role that he plays for Surrey because he bats higher up, but going in last night for 45 minutes was a very, very big part in the game and he handled it very well. And him walking off there not out with Joe at the end no doubt will give him a lot of confidence going into the rest of the summer.
"He took some catches which he made look very easy but they weren't and to have a gloveman like Ben behind the stumps gives me a lot of confidence and it gives the bowlers a lot of confidence."
Asked how he had managed to park the captaincy 'after hours' so to speak, in light of Root's searingly honest press conference moments before in which he detailed how heavily the role had begun to impact his life outside of cricket, Stokes was relaxed.
That said, he also admitted he had a relatively easy job on what turned out to be the final morning, having lost his wicket the previous evening after contributing a valuable, if somewhat streaky half-century.
"It's been fine," he shrugged. "It was my birthday last night and I didn't have to do that much today so it was nice to go out and have dinner with the family and a couple of beers, so I slept quite well," he said.
"It's a great start, we've won, there's obviously going to be you know, ups and downs. And it's just about dealing with that but I think having me and Brendon in charge, it's going to be really important how we operate when things don't go well."
Despite England's success, McCullum declined to front the media following the match, presumably to allow his new captain Stokes and match-winner Root to revel in the moment.

Valkerie Baynes is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo