Ben Stokes was the pick of the England bowlers on day three of the first #raisethebat Test and the all-rounder continues to give his side a “good dilemma”, according to Rob Key.
The West Indies established a crucial first-innings lead of 114 at the Ageas Bowl but the situation could have been far worse for England had it not been for the stand-in skipper’s 4-49.
Stokes also top-scored with the bat for the home side and given his importance to the team in all facets of the game, managing his workload remains a challenge.
“This is the real dilemma really, how much do you use him with the ball?” Sky Sports pundit Key said. “He put in a match-winning performance with the ball at Newlands.
“That was one of the flattest pitches of that winter tour (to South Africa), it was a crucial game and on the last day, who do you turn to? Ben Stokes. He bowled 90mph on a dead pitch and won the game for England. But you don’t want to over-bowl him.
“He is an awkward customer because he is quicker than you think, he can be around 90mph. You think he’s going to bump you but then he’s got a good wrist as well and can bowl in-swingers and he can get the ball to go out too – he’s such a skilful bowler.
“It’s a good dilemma to have, how much do you use him? Even in this game when he is captain himself, as well as Dom Bess bowled – I thought he beautifully on this pitch that wasn’t offering assistance – Stokes still went to Bess before he gave himself a proper spell.
“Whereas if I were batting, if anyone is batting, who do you not want to face? Well, I don’t want to face Ben Stokes. How he uses himself and how Joe Root uses him is going to be interesting from now on.”
England vs W Indies
July 11, 2020, 10:30am
With the spread of coronavirus leading to a more condensed schedule, ensuring Stokes is not overworked could be even more of a challenge for England this summer.
By September 1, England will have played six Tests in seven weeks as well as a three-match ODI series against Ireland and three T20 internationals against Pakistan.
Key believes England will prioritise red-ball cricket and, as such, Stokes’ breaks come could during the limited-overs series.
“I almost get the feeling that this summer it is about Test cricket,” he said.
“I know the one-day series are going to be important but there is no World Cup coming up in the 50-over game, I know there will be a T20 World Cup at some stage but that is only four overs bowling.
“I’d like to see Ben Stokes, as the best cricketer in the world – people can say Virat Kohli, no he is a batsman and might be the best batsman in the world – I’d like to see him bowling but it is just a matter of how much.”
Watch day four of the first #raisethebat Test between England and West Indies live on Sky Sports Cricket from 10.30am on Saturday.