Influential Ben Stokes Is Back - But Can He Inspire England To Ashes Miracle?

England's inspiring all-rounder is back for the Ashes tour
15:05, 25 Oct 2021

If there is one man that can save England Down Under, it is Ben Stokes. He is the beating heart of Joe Root’s side and alongside his captain and Jimmy Anderson, one of only three truly world class players that England possess. 

England’s hopes of victory in Australia have now been raised from ‘absolutely no chance’ to ‘hang on a second’. Nathan Lyon may have hinted at it last week but Stokes’ return does change everything for England’s middle order. We gave a scathing review of Dan Lawrence, Dawid Malan and Ollie Pope just two weeks ago, pointing to their lack of experience which could see them struggle in Australia, but Stokes reinvigorates the batting line-up completely. 

Yes, there are still obvious question marks over the openers with Rory Burns and Haseeb Hameed failing to make their mark in the recent Test series against India but the unflappable Joe Root now has some level of support behind him when he comes in to bat. 

BBC Sports Personality of the Year from 2019, Stokes can lift an entire dressing room. He can also win Test matches single handedly, as the Aussies know all too well. That day at Headingley two years ago summed up the 30-year-old as a player, and shows exactly what he can bring to the team in pressurised moments. 

With the series on the line at 1-0 down in the third Test, he batting his way into England folklore with a remarkable 135 not out, but what was equally as impressive as his batting display was the way he managed the situation with tail-ender Jack Leach. Wiping the sweat from his glasses, Leach managed to keep his cool in the summer sun, guided by his teammate who made sure he was at the striking end the majority of the time. 

The all-rounder proved that day he is not only one of the finest cricketers in the world, but one of the most influential. There is nobody else that could have done what he did on that particular day and England are likely to face several more perilous situations against the Aussies in December, given the strength of their bowling line-up.

Most importantly for both England cricket fans and Stokes himself, this break from the game should see him return both rested and refreshed. Being thrust into the limelight and taking on that extra responsibility may have been part of the reason that his mental health was affected while the finger injury he suffered for the Rajasthan Royals back in April also needed rest in order to heal. 

“I had a break to prioritise my mental wellbeing and I got my finger sorted,” Stokes said in an official statement. “I am looking forward to seeing my mates and being on the field with them. I’m ready for Australia.”

Now he seems ready to get back to his best, and boy do England need him. “Ben called me to say he was ready to return to cricket and was excited about the prospect of playing a significant role in the Ashes series,”  Managing Director of England Men's Cricket, Ashley Giles added.

"Time and time again, Ben has demonstrated how important he is to the England team and having him available for the Ashes series is excellent news for all of us and, in particular, Chris (Silverwood), Joe (Root) and the rest of the players.”

England are still huge underdogs for the series, with Betfred pricing them at 9/2 to win outright, but with Stokes in the team their chances have certainly increased. Inspiring this beleaguered team to an Ashes win in Australia would surpass Headingley, SPOTY and the World Cup final. Win or lose though, this six month break Stokes has given himself, could just be the best thing he has ever done. 

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