England captain Ben Stokes singles out Alex Lees and Zak Crawley ahead of South Africa First Test

 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

Ben Stokes has picked out his openers’ century stand in the victory over India at Edgbaston last month as his most pleasing performance in England’s four Test victories earlier this summer, and heaped praise on the pair, Alex Lees and Zak Crawley.

Lees (av 25.5) and Crawley (26.7) both have modest Test records, but Stokes has praised their “selfless” approach to opening the batting in his new-look Test side.

Crawley, particularly has found himself under pressure after a quiet summer at international and county level, but he received another strong endorsement from Stokes.

The captain picked out their stand of 107 in just 21.4 overs as the key factor in England’s victory over India in July, as it allowed Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow to complete a record chase of 378.

“Him [Crawley] and Leesy were the main reason why we won that game against India, in that chase,” said Stokes.

“Rooty and Jonny rightly got all the plaudits for that but one thing I’ve said to those two is I want the openers to go out there and feel that they are able to win us the game with the bat, not set the game up for the middle order to go out and play the way they did. And that’s what they did at Edgbaston.

“Of all the things we managed to do as a team, and as individuals in those four games, hand on heart I can say that was the most pleasing thing to me over those four or five weeks, that opening partnership at Edgbaston.

“To see Zak go out and still play in such a selfless manner when sometimes people might just look to get a score. The way he went out and played and really put the India attack under the pump.

“Leesy took over from what he’s known for over the last couple of years to play in the way that he did, running down the wicket in the first over and things like that.”

Stokes said the pair’s selfless attitude explained his faith in them.

“That’s the kind of stuff that is so pleasing to see, that these guys are not just in it for themselves and looking after themselves, they have a real understanding of what the team ethos is,” he said.

“The team is bigger than one person. When you look at it from my point of view I think you can see why these guys are getting the backing from me. They’re buying into what we’re doing and it’s not about them, the bigger picture is about winning the game.”