Ben Stokes poses in the England captain's blazer
World Test Championship

Assessing the evidence: What sort of England Test captain will Ben Stokes be?

England News

By Tom Bennett

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New England Test captain Ben Stokes has a big job on his hands, but does come into the role with some England leadership experience already under his belt.

Stokes takes over an England side ranked fifth in the ICC Men’s Test Rankings and placed bottom of the current ICC World Test Championship Standings.

And the 30-year-old has limited captaincy experience to fall back on as he looks to turn England’s Test fortunes around.

test

TEST Team Ranking Full Table

Last updated (GMT) - 05 Jul 2022
Developed by David Kendix
Pos Team T Matches M Points P Rating R
1 Australia AUS 19 2,439 128
2 India IND 29 3,318 114
3 South Africa SA 21 2,306 110
4 England ENG 39 3,909 100
5 New Zealand NZ 27 2,704 100
6 Pakistan PAK 20 1,865 93
7 Sri Lanka SL 20 1,637 82
8 West Indies WI 25 1,988 80
9 Bangladesh BAN 22 1,047 48
10 Zimbabwe ZIM 6 148 25

But there are some indicators as to the sort of captain Stokes will be, with the all-rounder having stepped in to skipper England on four previous occasions in different formats.

We look at how the team fared under Stokes’ stewardship, and what that could tell us about his captaincy style.

1st Test v West Indies, July 2020 – England lost by four wickets

With Joe Root absent for the birth of his second child, Stokes stood in as captain for the sole previous time in Test cricket, and oversaw a four-wicket defeat, the team’s only Test loss of a Covid-impacted summer.

The match will be remembered as much for the decision to leave out a disgruntled Stuart Broad in favour of Mark Wood’s high pace as for the result. And while the call ultimately proved unsuccessful, with Wood the least impactful of the fast bowlers taking 2/110 across both innings, it showcased Stokes’ willingness to make bold calls.

Ben Stokes led England for one Test against West Indies
Ben Stokes led England for one Test against West Indies

England’s attack of James Anderson, Jofra Archer, Wood, Stokes and Dom Bess bowled collectively well in Southampton, with the batters arguably more to blame for the loss. None of England’s batters passed 50 in a first-innings of 204 all out, and none of the top six kicked on to a century in the second innings despite all getting starts.

Stokes made a couple of other decisions that showcased his ability to go against the grain, opening the bowling with Archer and moving Zak Crawley down to bat at No.4. Crawley’s 76 in that role was England’s highest individual score of the match, and he has not batted as low as four again in his 21-Test career so far.

The stand-in skipper also showed an ability to impact the game with bat and ball while leading, scoring 40s in both innings and taking six wickets in the match, more than any other England bowler.

ODI Series vs Pakistan, July 2021 – England won 3-0

Stokes led England to a series whitewash of Pakistan in remarkable circumstances, taking charge of a makeshift squad after the entirety of the previous group was ruled out due to Covid regulations just days before the start of the series.

Stokes returned early from a broken finger and later revealed he was in great pain throughout a three-match series in which he contributed little with bat or ball.

But his captaincy was full of attacking intent, with aggressive field placings and creative bowling changes seeing a new-look England attack bowl Pakistan out cheaply in the first two matches.

And even when faced with a daunting chase after a Babar Azam century in the final match, Stokes’ side played with fluency to reach the target of 332 with two overs still remaining.

To lead a cobbled together side to a clean sweep against a team of Pakistan’s calibre showed a flair for captaincy that bodes well for Stokes’ future in charge.

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