Ben Stokes: Harry Brook will be in England side for a long time
Stokes' mission to usurp head coach Brendon McCullum at the top of the list have been an amusing sub-plot since the pair were brought together by director of cricket Rob Key last year. The all-rounder equalled McCullum's high watermark of 107 in Pakistan before Christmas and went clear at the summit on day three of England's 267-run win in Mount Maunganui, launching Kiwi seamer Scott Kuggeleijn over fine leg. The moment brought a round of applause and a broad smile from the man he shunted into second place and Stokes celebrated by hitting another off the very next ball. How far he goes is anyone's guess, but he thinks he is sharing a dressing room with the man who will overtake him. Yorkshireman Brook has enjoyed a revelatory start to his international career, winning player of he match in each of the last three games and racking up three centuries in his first eight innings. He has also cleared the ropes 15 times already, averaging three sixes per Test. "I was blowing that one over the ropes because I didn't think it was going to go," Stokes said of his 108th maximum. "When it went, it was like I picked Brendon up off my shoulder and dropped him. He said 'well done' to me and I just said 'Brooky will probably break it in the next 20 games the way he is going'. I can't see it being around too long if Harry Brook is in the side, which I imagine he will be for a long time going forward." And the 23-year-old, who averages a staggering 77.87 at a strike-rate of 96.88, is unlikely to back away from the challenge. A brutally clean ball-striker, he has been empowered by the current regime to swing hard and is currently reaping the rewards of that optimistic outlook. "I've said a few times now, the amount of freedom we have going out to bat is phenomenal," he said. "I've never felt like that before. I feel like I can go out and do whatever I want. Even if there's still people on the boundary, I'm still allowed to try to clear them. The amount of freedom is remarkable. "It's been fun. I've played five games now and enjoyed every single one of them. Obviously I haven't had a loss yet, which makes it all the better. We're playing in such a positive style, taking the bowlers on and looking to score. I think you get away with more when you're batting. You get away with the nicks or little inside edges because you are being positive."
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