Ben Bashs

There is an alternate universe where Ben Stokes bats for the country of his birth, New Zealand. Oh, what fun he and Brendon McCullum have. Captains in that universe pull all the hair from their head, all the skin off their face, and all the nails from their body with them together. There would be sixes and flexed biceps all over the place.
McCullum is like a coked up energizer bunny changing how we think about cricket shots. Stokes is meat. Lots of meat. Everything about his batting says impending danger. Nothing is invented. He doesn’t bounce off walls. He tries to bring them down. Against spinners, he looks like he is holding himself from trying to paint the deep-midwicket crowd with sixes.
It took McCullum five years to make a Test hundred against a major Test playing nation in an important Test. Two Tests into his career Stokes made a hundred at the hurt-o-dome of the WACA against the bull demon Ryan Harris and the dragon Mitchell Johnson when the rest of his team seemed to be going home, beaten, or retired. Now he had McCullum’s Kiwis. All confidence and raw hope. To bring Stokes to the crease, McCullum had his bowlers in a five over period, bowl Joe Root 10 bouncers in 17 balls. They had a deep-forward sqaure, a long leg, and a short-square leg. To the tenth ball Root picked out the long leg. Before that, Root had hooked one boundary.
It’s dank at Lord’s when the 81st over starts. New Zealand take the new ball. England had fought back. Stokes is set. Trent Boult is rested from the new ball. Southee bowls to Stokes. Three times Stokes drives nicely, but finds the field. None are slogged. None are lofted. This is a respectable No. 6 batsmen facing the new ball. He is well set on 30. He remains on that score throughout the over.
The 83rd over. Stokes opens the face and runs one behind point for a boundary. Then he drives one past mid-off. Then he guides another past point. Three boundaries. All played safely and tamely. There are no fireworks.
A few overs later Boult is in the attack. New Zealand’s last chance of taking back control of the game is in his hands. 22 quality overs from Boult. He has probed. Swung. Cut. Maidened. It has been a masterclass in bowling well and finding virtually no reward. Boult bowls an accurate yorker right in the blockhole, straight and full, the whole enchilada. Stokes clunks it into the turf. From another bat, another man, it limps back up to the bowler. Here, it flies past Boult, past McCullum, all the way up to the bacon and egg jacket section. Stokes bowls a heavy ball, Stokes hits a heavy ball.
Southee fronts up to Stokes again for the 89th over. Two men go out on the boundary, Southee bowls a bouncer too high, and it’s called a wide. Southee recalibrates and bowls short again. The crowd and commentators make that noise when someone plays a big shot and there is someone on the rope, it’s halfway between a six scream and a wicket wail. Then it’s clear, top edge or not, Stokes’ ball is clearing the rope. Next ball, the same noise happens again. This time instead of a cheer from the crowd, it’s a silence, followed by a laugh as Doug Bracewell fumbles the ball over the rope that was never quite as close as he thought.
Having got away with two, there are men who would put the pistol away and ride out of town. Stokes is not that kind of cowboy. He has been twitching to let loose all day. Even early on his footwork showed a man who wanted to hit Mark Craig out of England. He has this twitchy front foot that wants to get out of the line and give his arms a chance to clear something, his front leg, the rope, a stand.
Southee continues short, Stokes continues hooking. He lifts it high again, but this time it flies off the top edge nowhere near a fielder. It is only a four. In three balls, he hasn’t timed one. Southee is mid-pitch reminding him of that. Stokes doesn’t seem to hear him. No one is as voiceless as the man who has been hit for 20 runs in an over, edges or no edges.
At the start of the 91st over, black cab drivers on Wellington Road know that is coming. Tim Southee will bounce. Ben Stokes will swing. Both these things happen. But Southee is tired. His short ball looks short, but goes nowhere and had a shot not been played at it, it would have barely bounced over the stumps. Stokes does play a shot. Four runs and a third fielder sent out to the leg side boundary follow.
Southee tries two full balls. They don’t last. And he goes short again. Yet again, there is nothing on it. It has no real pace, no steeple. It seems to be sitting there waiting to be hit when Stokes pulls it. Just for a minute it looks like he might clear the Mound Stand and land it in the Liberal Jewish Synagogue outside the ground.
Short bowling is finished. Southee goes full again. There was a time during the last World Cup when the thought of a Southee full ball was enough to take the wicket of an Englishman. Stokes drives this down the ground into the 90s.
Matt Henry replaces Southee. Stokes is on 99.
Earlier in the day, as Cook got near his hundred, McCullum had three slips, a gully, three catching covers, a catching mid-on and a regulation point. It was the height of funkiness. As with the best McCullum fields, it felt like there were too many men out on the ground. It even made Cook look nervous for a moment as the odd 8-1 field stared back at him.
For Stokes on 99, McCullum can only summon up two slips, a gully, and a regulation field. Stokes has slapped the funk out of McCullum. Bashed the attacking right out of New Zealand. It took him 85 balls.

Advertisements

One thought on “Ben Bashs

  1. ankit says:

    What a beauty jarrod. You always make my day.

Comments are closed.