The No.1 Test all-rounder in the world, third in the batting rankings and England’s ‘Mr Incredible’ – Ben Stokes’ excellence continues to reach new heights.
He’s now got 10 Test tons to his name; only three other men have hit as many and taken more Test wickets: Messrs Botham, Kallis and Sobers. Nifty company.
Here are those 10 centuries ranked, shaped by the opinions of Wisden’s Taha Hashim. Any hostility towards his decisions can be directed right here.
10. 100 (124) v West Indies, Leeds, 2017
With England in difficulty at 71-4 in the first innings – highly on brand – Stokes found his feet in the company of Joe Root, surviving a lively Kemar Roach spell before the counter-attack gained further rhythm. The cover drives were thumping, but Stokes’ brash strokeplay almost got the better of him when a slog down the ground on 98 was somehow put down by Shannon Gabriel at mid-on. He eventually perished on 100, but the game failed to revolve around his efforts with the bat. Shai Hope and Kraigg Brathwaite were the headliners in a historic West Indies win.
9. 115 not out (165) v Australia, Lord’s, 2019
A month earlier, the 84 and the super over. Now, back in whites, the runs flowed once more, confirming that Stokes’ great summer wasn’t to finish at the World Cup. With England beginning day five on 96-4 in their second innings, with a lead of 104, any early errors could have seen to some serious trouble. Instead, Stokes turned the tide, consecutive slog-sweeps for six off Nathan Lyon changing the Lord’s hum into a roar. By the end of the day, it was Australia hanging on for a draw as England fell four wickets short.
8. 128 (235) v India, Rajkot, 2016
There are worlds still left to conquer for Stokes; in Asia, his batting average sits at 29.92. His only hundred on the continent so far came in the first Test of a five-match series against India, and he wasn’t called into action till the 81st over of England’s first innings after some Joe Root and Moeen Ali gorgeousness. His defensive technique against spin, improved following his trials and tribulations in the UAE the previous winter, proved key in blunting the threat of India’s tweakers, and a near five-hour stay at the crease produced England’s third century of the innings.
7. 120 (214) v South Africa, Port Elizabeth, 2020
The first knock on this list that can be defined as match-winning. Stokes joined forces with wunderkind Ollie Pope for a 203-run fifth-wicket stand, and on day one the latter’s fluency hogged the limelight, with Stokes surviving a dropped chance at short leg on 10 off the bowling of Keshav Maharaj. The left-arm spinner would feel further pain on day two when Stokes unleashed his thunderous slog-sweeps. On 91, Stokes reached for a ball an eternity wide of off stump, and, balance unhindered, somehow spanked it for four through deep midwicket. While overshadowed slightly by Pope’s maiden Test ton, Stokes’ 120 helped England to an innings win.
6. 176 (356) v West Indies, Manchester, 2020
The most balls faced by Stokes in a Test innings and the ton not reached till his 255th ball. Against a persistent West Indies attack, he played the waiting game alongside Dom Sibley in a monster 260-run stand. Strangely enough, though, the mastery of the innings wasn’t realised until Stokes re-emerged first up in England’s second innings and blasted the fastest Test half-century by an England opener to set up the chase.
5. 112 (153) v South Africa, The Oval, 2017
Having to contend with a pace attack of Kagiso Rabada, Morne Morkel, Chris Morris and Vernon Philander on a wicket tinged with green, Stokes put the brawn in his back pocket and didn’t bring it out till he was left with just James Anderson for company, nine runs short of three figures. It was then he fed into the spin of Maharaj, two consecutive sixes bringing on the adulation of The Oval. Another maximum followed immediately, just for kicks.
4. 258 (198) v South Africa, Cape Town, 2016
“These seven weeks may come to be seen as Stokes’ coming of age as an all-rounder of the highest calibre,” wrote Stephen Brenkley in the Wisden Almanack, reflecting on England’s time in South Africa, with Stokes delivering 411 runs and 12 wickets across four Tests in a 2-1 series win. Over half of those runs came in one brutal display of hitting in Cape Town that had Stokes on video-game mode. His double-century arrived from 163 balls, the second-fastest in Test history, and 11 sixes were part of the final summary. Still, in what proved to be a run-fest, the final result was a draw, with England’s 629-6 followed by South Africa’s 627-7.
3. 120 (195) v Australia, Perth, 2013
The announcement that there was something a bit special here. England had been battered and bruised by Mitchell Johnson in the first two Tests Down Under, the left-arm quick no longer a punchline but the man dishing it out. The tune didn’t change in the third Test, but on a WACA surface decorated with cracks, Stokes – playing just his second Test – was able to deliver England some respite, pulling, driving and, most importantly, surviving on his way to three figures. Amidst the wreckage of a once-great England side, a 22-year-old fronted up. While it was in vain, the quality of the attack and circumstances of that series lift this above the boisterous double-ton.
2. 101 (92) v New Zealand, Lord’s, 2015
A first-innings 92, delivered off 94 balls, was consigned to the shadows thanks to his second-innings effort, the fastest Test century at Lord’s. A couple of cover drives off Matt Henry kickstarted the carnage, Mark Craig’s off-spin was gorged on, and Tim Southee bore the brunt of the hook. Stokes had arrived with England four wickets down and the lead just 98. He celebrated his ton, off 85 balls, with Alastair Cook still at the other end and the hosts 226 runs in front. The previous summer England had used him at No.8; earlier in the year he’d not even made the World Cup squad. Now, he was back.
1. 135 not out (219) v Australia, Leeds, 2019
Rank his tons in 10 years and this one ain’t going anywhere. Ashes on the line, 2 off 66 to 135 not out, that reverse-sweep, the “cut away for four”… Ah, you know what? Just watch it again.