New England captain Stokes marks Durham return with blistering 161

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New England Test captain Ben Stokes smashed a brutal 161 for Durham against Worcestershire in his first County Championship appearance of the season.

Star all-rounder Stokes was named as Joe Root's successor at the end of April, and has been charged with turning around England's fortunes – the red-ball national side winning just one of their last 17 Tests.

Opting to spend some time in the middle before England host New Zealand in a three-Test series, which starts on June 2 at Lord's, Stokes found his form in remarkable fashion on Friday.

Stokes joined David Bedingham at the crease at New Road after Scott Borthwick was trapped in front by Ben Gibbon, and blasted through a shell-shocked Worcestershire attack to reach his century before lunch.

The 30-year-old targeted young off-spinner Josh Baker, launching five sixes in his 20th over to reach a 64-ball ton before narrowly missing out on a sixth straight maximum with a one-bounce boundary.

While Stokes fell short of Garfield Sobers' elusive six maximums in an over, he posted the fastest first-class century in Durham's history, surpassing England interim coach Paul Collingwood's record (75 balls).

Stokes returned for the afternoon session by clearing the ropes for a 17th time to achieve a County Championship record, while only four players have hit more sixes in any first-class innings.

However, the England skipper then miscued a Brett D'Oliveira delivery to be caught on the boundary by Jack Haynes as his magnificent 161 from just 88 balls came to an end.

Durham declared on 580-6 soon after following Bedingham being dismissed for 135.

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