Stokes vows to keep entertaining on return to scene of Ashes heroics

Nicholas McGee
Stats Perform
22/06/202219:10
Ben Stokes will lead England at Headingley, scene of his astonishing 2019 Ashes heroics
Ben Stokes will lead England at Headingley, scene of his astonishing 2019 Ashes heroics

Ben Stokes is out to make some more happy memories at Headingley as England look to complete a Test series whitewash of New Zealand in Leeds.

Stokes and England have not played a Test at Headingley since his remarkable showing in the third Ashes Test with Australia in 2019, which saw him rescue the hosts and lead them to a one-wicket win with the highest successful chase in their Test history. Stokes' unbeaten 135 propelled England past the target of 359 and is regarded by many as the greatest Test innings of all time.

After replacing Joe Root as captain, Stokes – along with new head coach Brendon McCullum – has inspired another transformation in his first series as skipper, his side claiming successive wins over New Zealand, having previously won one of their last 17 Tests, to wrap up the series with a game to spare.

The second Test at Trent Bridge saw England ruthlessly chase down 299 in front of a packed day-five house, the hosts prevailing despite conceding 553 runs in the first innings.

It was a match that saw a Test-record 249 boundaries (225 fours and 24 sixes) struck. Seven of those sixes came in Jonny Bairstow's critical 136, the Yorkshireman reaching 100 off just 77 balls as he went into Twenty20 mode having recently returned from the Indian Premier League.

And Stokes says his side will play in the same attacking manner as he targets more joy at Headingley.

"The first time we've played Test matches since that game [versus Australia in 2019], so it's amazing how fast time goes," said Stokes. 

"There are obviously some great memories here at Headingley, we've got a good record here as a team so, yes, looking forward to getting going again.

"I was pretty simple and clear in the dressing room. I said this week, let's try and think like we're in the entertainment business rather than the sporting business because I feel like we've managed to do something over the last two weeks.

"There's a reason why we had 20,000 people that are at Trent Bridge on day five, because they want to come in and watch this new brand-new cricket that we're playing.

"I set a challenge to the team to come out and be even more fearless, more positive and more aggressive than we were last week."

Anderson out but Williamson returns

England's sole change from that win sees Jamie Overton replace James Anderson, who is out with an ankle injury.

New Zealand captain Kane Williamson returns after missing the second Test with COVID-19 and he is not concerned with England's change in style under Stokes.

"Their style is theirs," Williamson said. "It appears to have evolved a little bit.

"For us it's focusing on our cricket and finding different areas of the game to target and be aware they are choosing to play a different brand that seems to be suiting them.

"The focus is us and wanting to be better."

New Zealand's attack has been depleted by injuries to Colin de Grandhomme and Kyle Jamieson. Neil Wagner and Ajaz Patel are each in consideration to come into the side.

Stokes' six appeal

Stokes hit six maximums in the second Test and is now on the verge of joining a select group. He needs one six to become just the third player to hit 100 in men's Test cricket (Brendon McCullum – 107 and Adam Gilchrist – 100).

The omens are good. Stokes has hit more than one in each of his last three Test innings against New Zealand, after hitting only four across all his 12 innings prior in the format against the Black Caps.

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