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England v West Indies

Rob Key: Interesting to see how England manage ‘best cricketer’ Ben Stokes’ workload

by Wisden Staff 2 minute read

Rob Key has opened up on stand-in captain Ben Stokes‘ workload, and is looking forward to seeing how Joe Root and England use the all-rounder, especially in the bowling department, in the long run.

Stokes top-scored and returned the best figures with the ball for the hosts in the first innings of the Southampton Test against West Indies. A 97-ball-43 was followed by a spell of 4-49, where he dismissed the two West Indies top-scorers in Kraigg Braithwaite (65) and Shane Dowrich (61), along with Jason Holder and Alzarri Joseph.

Recalling Stokes’ match-winning effort against South Africa at Newlands earlier this year, Key pointed out that the team management might need to manage his workload better as they wouldn’t ‘want to over-bowl him’.

“This is the real dilemma really, how much do you use him with the ball?” Key said on Sky Sports. “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 skillful 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 – I thought he bowled 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.”

Key suggested that, without an ODI World Cup scheduled for the next three years, Stokes could be rested in the upcoming limited-over series – three ODIs v Ireland and three T20Is v Pakistan.

“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.”

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