LEEDS — Ben Stokes will find himself the centre of attention when England face his native New Zealand in the second Test at Headingley today.
His 85-ball hundred, the fastest Test century ever scored at Lord’s in terms of balls faced, played a key role in turning the tide of the series opener, which England won by 124 runs to go 1-0 up in the two-match contest on Monday.
The 23-year-old had already helped rescue England from the depths of 30 for four in their first innings by making 92 while adding 161 with Joe Root (98).
And, just for good measure, the Durham man, who came to England with his family as a 12-year-old, took three for 38 on Monday’s final day, including the wickets of danger man Kane Williamson and New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum in successive balls.
But Root, like Stokes one of several young players who shone for England at Lord’s including debutant fast bowler Mark Wood, is confident the all-rounder won’t get carried away with the hype that followed his second Test century, which came some 18 months after his first, in Perth.
“He will be fine,” said Root of Stokes.
“When he is batting, he is a free spirit; he goes and plays his shots and puts sides under pressure.
“Even in times of struggle, when we are 30 for four, he came out and put them on the back foot,” vice-captain Root added.
“It will not work every time and could have looked slightly reckless if it didn’t come off.
“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.”
The first Test was notable too for a marathon innings of 162 by England captain Alastair Cook that left the opener just 32 runs shy of overtaking Essex mentor Graham Gooch’s England Test runs record of 8 900.
So it was no surprise that new England coach Trevor Bayliss, who will take over in time for the Ashes, was heartened by what he had seen.
“I’ve been staying up late into the night watching the last Test at Lord’s to do some research and it’s great to see,” said the Australian.
“I’d much rather come into working with a team that’s on a high.”
For New Zealand, defeat was tough to take as so many of their players had set their hearts on becoming just the second Black Caps side, after the 1999 team, to win a Test at Lord’s.
They also did many of the things that would normally secure a victory, scoring more than 700 runs in the match and taking 20 wickets.
But in the end they were well beaten.
“It was such a game of punch and counter-punch,” said New Zealand coach Mike Hesson. “It was really the fourth day that turned it around, we felt we bowled well enough to get three or four wickets in the morning but Alastair Cook and the way Ben Stokes and Joe Root played took the game away from us. That was the turning point.”
Wicket-keeper BJ Watling suffered a knee injury at Lord’s and spent much of the match off the field, with Tom Latham deputising behind the stumps.
“BJ’s not 100%, clearly his knee is still an issue. He struggles to push off and get a lot of power so he’s 50-50 [to play in the second Test] at this stage,” added Hesson.
Meanwhile, New Zealand opener Martin Guptill said the side knew how to bounce back from defeat.
“On the last day [at Lord’s], we just didn’t quite get the batting right,” Guptill said, but said his team had recovered straight away from a big loss before and were capable of doing it at Headingley.
He added: “We showed against Australia, in 2011, winning in Hobart — bouncing back from a heavy defeat in Brisbane.
“I hope we can do that again this week … we’re all raring to go for Friday.”