Ben Stokes hails the ‘rare’ quality in his England side after South Africa win tops off brilliant summer

·3-min read
 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

Ben Stokes hailed his England side after they wrapped up a series win over South Africa in just 25 minutes on the final morning.

After a heavy defeat at Lord’s, England responded well to win inside three days at Old Trafford and the Oval. That means they took six wins from seven Tests this summer having whitewashed New Zealand 3-0 and levelled a series 2-2 against India that was carried over from 2021 due to Covid-19.

It has been a dramatic turnaround under the captaincy of Ben Stokes and coaching of Brendon McCullum. England had won one of their last 17 Tests under Joe Root’s captaincy and saw a total overhaul of their senior management at the start of the summer. Root resigned, while Managing Director Ashley Giles and Head Coach Chris Silverwood were fired.

On the final day of a match that has taken place against the backdrop of the death of the Queen on Thursday, England’s victory was a formality on the final day after they bowled South Africa out for under 170 twice.

England returned needing 33 runs and required just 25 minutes to seal victory by nine wickets.

Zak Crawley struck the winning runs to finish 69 not out from just 57 balls, with his opening partner Alex Lees the only man to go, lbw to Kagiso Rabada. England had chased down their target of 130 in just 135 balls, largely thanks to Crawley’s excellent intent.

Stokes was named player of the series for his all-round contribution, scoring a century at Old Trafford and taking 10 wickets in some epic spells of fast bowling, but he was delighted with the way his team all stood up.

“It has been a great series for us as a team,” he said. “We have had no real individual, standout performances but different people have put their hands up in crucial periods for us.

“In a team sport that is what you want, you want to turn to different people at different times and hope they can break the game open for you with ball and bat. That is what we managed to do throughout this whole series.”

Stokes said he was delighted with the manner in which his players had “bought into” his methods and promised they would remain positive.

“Joe has got to take a lot of credit for captaining the side for six years in the way he did,” he said. “To then buy into something that was completely different to how Joe wanted to operate, everyone has really brought into it. I have been very thankful that I have had a group of lads who have brought into and understood the bigger picture of what me and Baz [McCullum] are trying to achieve.

“There is a reason we have been able to go out a perform and have the confidence in each other to go and do that. That is very rare. With this game being shortened, our main aim was the make sure it ended in a result. We felt we owed it to ourselves, we owed it to the nation who have showed the support throughout this whole summer.

“We will always continue to play in a way that is going to entertain people and always look at the positive side of cricket.”