They say the New Year usually brings surprises with it, and well, guess what? We, here at SportsCafe, have a hell of a surprise lined up today - yes, for the first time in Friday Fights history, it will be all-rounder vs all-rounder. And what better than having two GOATs inaugurate the same?
There might truly never be another Jacques Kallis, but holy moly, it is also impossible to see cricket producing two all-rounders like Ben Stokes and Shakib Al Hasan in the years to come. Two through-and-through match winners, two once-in-a-lifetime cricketers, Stokes and Shakib are special and unique in their own merry ways and will rightfully go down in history as GOATs.
Generally, we would say they are incomparable and should be celebrated for who they are, but the prospect of pitting the two against each other inside the ring for a Friday Fight, you know, was just too spicy to ignore. They both made ICC’s ODI Team of the Decade, but who really is the better all-rounder? Well, let’s waste no time.
Note: This is a 10-round bout. All rounds with a star (*) next to them denote that the opponents that have been taken into consideration are only India, Australia, Pakistan, South Africa, New Zealand, and England. This is to ensure that Shakib does not get an unfair edge, given he’s played a lot of games against smaller teams.
*ROUND 1 -> BATTING AVERAGE: Stokes mauls Shakib to reveal that he means business
Ben Stokes plays Test matches with T20 intensity, so you could imagine how much energy he would be willing to put in a shortened 10-round battle. Gung-ho as ever, he launches into Shakib as soon as the bell rings, with his average of 41.95, and poor Shakib who hasn’t played any top-level cricket for 18 months is rocked and comes second best with his numbers of 33.68. “Raise your level, pal” Stokes says, as he takes R1.
Stokes - 10 Shakib - 8
*ROUND 2 -> BOWLING AVERAGE: Raise his standards he does
Shakib might look like an introverted kid afraid of the class bullies, but make no mistake, he is NOTHING like that on the inside. He shrugs his rust off in just one round and shows Stokes his place with a thunderous right cross. Bowling is his alley, and he proves just that with his average of 36.53, which is four better than Stokes’ 40.12. You wanted an increase in intensity, Mr Stokes? You got it.
Stokes - 7 Shakib - 10
*ROUND 3 -> WICKETS PER INNINGS: Where’s your fight, Stokesy?
They say Stokes makes things happen, and he is, you know, the partnership breaker. But is he, really? Or do we confuse Stokes the Test bowler with Stokes the ODI bowler? The right-armer, who’s picked 1.03 wkts per innings, throws an embarrassingly soft jab, which Shakib, who is quite the boss with his numbers of 1.18, dodges and strikes back with a thumping left-cross. “Raise your level, Stokesy,” mocks Shakib.
Stokes - 8 Shakib 10
*ROUND 4 -> BATTING STRIKE RATE: Lesson learnt - don’t enrage Stokes
Nothing fuels the fire within Stokes than enduring humiliation, and he is out for vengeance after being disrespected by Shakib. Irked by the southpaw’s sledge, Stokes latches onto the left-armer as soon as the bell rings and delivers a devastating 1-2-3 (Jab-Cross-Left hook) combo. His SR of 92.93 is 14 more than Shakib’s 78.67. Phew.
Stokes - 10 Shakib - 7
*ROUND 5 -> FREQUENCY OF FIFTY-PLUS SCORES: Shakib leaves Stokes stunned
No, no. This wasn’t supposed to happen. Not if Stokes was to run away with the contest. Batting, he thought, was his forte, but bloody hell Shakib has left him mortified. On the back of the R4 win, Stokes, with numbers of 3.29, delivers a decent jab, confident he’ll take the round but it isn’t to be. Shakib roars back with a 3.46 and lands a mighty right cross to walk away with the round. Who saw this coming? Not Stokes, certainly.
Stokes - 9 Shakib - 10
ROUND 6 -> Bowling average in ICC tournaments: Stokes is paying for his slip up
R5 was a hell of a missed opportunity and Stokes is absolutely kicking himself now. He enters this round knowing he’ll be the second favorite, due to Shakib’s miserly slow left-arm, and his intuition proves to be true. The Englishman tries his best and lands a half-decent left hook in the form of his average of 43.3, but it is, unsurprisingly bettered by the BD legend, who counters it with a strong 1-2 (Jab-Right cross) in the form of his numbers of 39.00.
Stokes - 8 Shakib - 10
ROUND 7 -> RUNS PER INNINGS IN ICC TOURNAMENTS: Some respite for Stokes, finally!
And Stokes stays alive. Just about. He badly needed to win this round and he does. Stil in hangover having done well with the ball, Shakib ‘takes it light’ and throws an unconvincing right-hand, and that’s all the opening Stokes needs to soar back into this contest. The Englishman’s numbers of 49.92 is ten more than his Bangla counterpart, and he lands a trademark left hook to register the W in the round.
Stokes - 10 Shakib - 8
*ROUND 8 -> BATTING AVERAGE AWAY FROM HOME: Hold up. Stokes now has momentum
What looked unlikely and improbable three rounds ago has now come to fruition: Ben Stokes is on a roll, confident, and he means business. It is not his best punch by any means - an average of 31.62, duh - but the momentum he’d generated in R7 helps him overpower Shakib, who looks lost. 26.78 is all the BD lad has up his sleeve. Not good enough at this level.
Stokes - 10 Shakib - 7
ROUND 9 -> NO OF BALLS BOWLED PER GAME: Self-doubt creeps into Ben Stokes
“How much you bowl depends on how much your captain trusts you” yells Shakib before the bell goes off, and these words breaks Stokes, who realizes mid-round that all this while, skipper Morgs had no trust in him as a bowler in ODIs. With his 27.4 balls per game he stands there shell shocked, and Shakib, who successfully played mind-games, thumps a static Stokes with a clamorous left-hand. Yep, Shakib, on average, bowls almost twice as many deliveries (51.8) as Stokes per game, indicating the load and responsibility he takes with him every game.
Stokes - 7 Shakib - 10
*ROUND 10 -> ECONOMY RATE: AND SHAKIB FINISHES THE JOB OFF
THAT IS IT. SHAKIB HAS DONE IT. HE’S GOT THE BETTER OF STOKES. Wickets in ODI cricket are valuable, but the true excellence of a bowler, particularly in modern-day cricket, can be judged by how consistent he is, how tight he bowls and how much he strangles batsmen. With his incredible ER of 4.91 Shakib proves he’s elite, but Stokes, unfortunately, with his ER of 6.09, is at least a dozen levels below his counterpart. Still feeling the effect of R9, Stokes is gingerly, and Shakib smells blood and finishes the job off with a booming uppercut. Job done.
WINNER BY TECHNICAL KNOCK-OUT: SHAKIB AL HASAN
FINAL SCORE: SHAKIB 90 - 85 STOKES
*Breathes*. Heck, that was a hell of a fight for a curtain-raiser. Eventually, the daylight in the quality of Stokes’ batting and bowling cost him the bout, but he’ll be looking back at Round 5 as the turning point. As a complete package, it is evident that Shakib trumps Stokes, but that does not mean that the Englishman is any less of a match-winner. Regardless of who won, though, that was some way to kickstart 2021. Happy New Year, folks!