Ian Botham: Ben Stokes has matured as person and cricketer

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Ian Botham: Ben Stokes has matured as person and cricketer

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SportsCafe Desk

05/28/2017

Former England captain and all-rounder Ian Botham stated that English all-rounder Ben Stokes has improved after his latest stint in the recently concluded Indian Premier Leauge. Stokes bagged the most valuable player award this year owing to the 316 runs he scored and 12 wickets he took.

"He has matured as person and cricketer. People were saying to me 'do you think he should have gone for that long to the IPL?' The answer is 'yes' because he's come back a better cricketer. He's probably thinking a lot clearer and knows what he wants to do; he doesn't get flustered anymore.The red mist comes down occasionally but he's controlling that. I think he's come back from India a better cricketer and I think people should look at the bigger picture and not just say 'he's got a knee injury - he got that in the IPL' when in fact, he's had that a while," Botham told Sky Sports on Saturday.

The 25-year old scored his second ODI ton against South Africa and helped England set up a colossal target of 328 which eventually the visitors failed to chase. Stokes' contribution was not restricted just to batting as the stylish all-rounder scalped the wicket of the ever-reliable Hashim Amla and contributed to England's win over South Africa in the match as well as the series.

Stokes took 79 balls to smash 101 which included 11 fours and 3 sixes after being dropped on the very first ball of his innings by Hashim Amla.

"Hashim Amla barely got a hand on one of the easiest catches you'll ever get at slip," said the former England all-rounder.

"If you let him [Stokes] off the hook, he makes you pay. He was magnificent. He's so powerful down the ground and he drags the ball well; he can drive it too. You can't set fields to straight hits like his. I think he likes batting against South Africa," opined Botham. 

In response, Quinton de Kock got the South African side off to a flyer with his 98-runs innings and set up the platform for the Proteas to level the series. Even towards the end, the duo of David Miller and Chris Morris looked in complete control as the Proteas needed 10 runs off the last 10 balls. 

However, the explosive South African batsmen failed to take their side across the finishing line and were faltered at the hands of some superb death bowling from Mark Wood who successfully defended 7-runs in the ultimate over of the match.

"I've got to be honest," said Botham, "I thought their fielding at Headingley was poor and it was more of the same today; you just don't expect to see that from South Africa. England have outfielded South Africa and you wouldn't have necessarily thought that at the start of the series; I thought they might have been on a level playing field, but England are much, much better at the moment.", the 61-year-old said.

"Then South Africa wanted 10 runs off 10 balls at the end of their innings - you should walk that. David Miller played very well but couldn't get back on strike. He struck the ball really, really well and almost got South Africa home.", he added.

Mark Wood's economic bowling and his smart death over bowling made the biggest difference in the match as Wood finished with figures of 0/48 from 10 overs.

"Death bowling is such a hard job on pitches like this - this was another great pitch at the Ageas Bowl with plenty of runs scored. England will get there. I think they might want to think about bowling Plunkett at the death - but then again, he was taking wickets at vital times. I thought Mark Wood did well; he bowled one bad ball in his last couple of overs and it got clubbed for six. But aside from that, he bowled well and with aggression and defended seven off the last over; you don't win too many of those,"  Botham concluded.

Did you know, AB de Villiers scored the fastest century by a batsman in One Day International cricket, off 31 balls and eventually scoring 149 runs off 44 balls in 59 minutes[20] against West Indies.

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