9 The Daily Telegraph Wednesday 22 July 2020 ** In terms of managing someone such as Stokes, the job is easy: you do not have to do anything those two bat in gear one or two, like we see Stokes doing. Freddie was a bowling allrounder. He hated that description, but he was. Beefy was an allrounder who batted at six. I have heard that Stokes could one day be ranked the best batsman in the world. Can you be regarded as the best batsman in the world batting at No5? I think you have to be in the top four facing the new ball. He has the ability to bat in the top four and it would not surprise me if, in time, that happens and he bowls less. He could bat anywhere. Five is the perfect position for Stokes while he is bowling. He plays spin, seam and pace. There is no part of his technique that you think could be targeted. Perhaps West Indies should have bounced him more. A top-edged pull at Southampton went down to fine leg, but they did not try it in Manchester. They bounced England more in the second was able to set up the game, giving his team more time to win. He must be a calming influence on others. I have a huge amount of respect for the way Dom Sibley played. You want stubbornness and a selfish nature. All great openers have that. But he would have been helped by Stokes saying “Carry on”. Stokes was also digging in so that made it OK for Sibley to carry on in his natural way. The message from Root is to bat as long as possible in the first innings. It ensures you do not lose the game. That might sound negative, but if after a day and a half you cannot lose, you are saying to the opposition, “You have to fight for 3½ days for the draw”. It is like a boxing match ... eventually you keep jabbing away and your opponent falls over. To play for 3½ days knowing you can only draw is very difficult, so that is what this first-innings approach is achieving for England. The question is whether they can do it when they have to bat second and the opposition have 300-350 on the board. That is the next step, but with Stokes in the side, anything is possible. One of the frustrations with this England team is they lose games even with this incredible player in their side who provides balance. For them to have produced a performance like they did in Southampton is hard to understand. West Indies are a delightful team to watch – they are brilliantly led and squeeze every ounce of ability out of themselves. But this England side should be doing to them what they have just done in Manchester every week. That is why it makes the third Test so fascinating. We know this England side can have a week when things go badly. We know they could collapse, which in a funny way makes them great to watch. innings in 19 overs than they did in the entire first innings. If you look at every England win over the past 18 months, Stokes has been pivotal in almost all of them. It would not do England any harm if he was to have a dodgy third Test and they still won. For the development of the team, that is required because there will come stages against better teams where Ben will not be able to pull them out of every hole. I really think he makes a difference by about 15-20 overs with the way he can accelerate. Even in the first innings, he suddenly started to hit the ball and If the five-day game is to be secured for the long term, then some things must change. First, flexibility is important. As when England played Ireland last year, some fixtures between sides at different ends of the seeding table might benefit from being shorter, at least until teams new to Test cricket learn the ropes and move closer to their opponents in skill. Equally, in Tests played on the subcontinent or in the West Indies during the English winter, where dusk falls early, there might even be a case for six-day matches. It is easy to forget that before the war many Tests were timeless, including all those played at home by Australia. The last timeless Test, between South Africa and England at Durban in 1939, was abandoned on the ninth playing day because the boat taking the England team home was due to sail. It would not be a good idea to revert to timeless Tests; they were stopped in the first place because the unpredictability of their length played havoc with scheduling and these days they would allow even more hanging around, posing and drinks breaks that have taken the over rate to an unreasonably low level. Another problem with Test cricket is that teams often do not complete even 90 overs in a day – and certainly hardly ever without going into extra time – which can make the game turgid and is also a fraud on the paying public. Hourly drinks breaks are unnecessary except on very hot days, and a way must be found to speed up the review system, even if it means handing the process over to a computer that can make a split-second decision. If Test cricket returned to the 100 over-plus a six-hour day that was common half a century ago, the game would have more momentum and might just become more popular. Another case for the argument to have four-day Tests was to reduce workload. Sticking at five days, and beefing up championship cricket to help sustain a decent Test side, would be a further imposition on the best players. In turn, that presses the argument for two codes, where players concentrate on one form or the other. Then there is no pressure on the Test calendar at all. But England need to be aware that the way things are going in several Test-playing countries, and unless there is concerted action to reverse the trend, the pool of their opponents is likely to shrink, even if the length of games does not. Teams often do not complete even 90 overs in a day, which is a fraud on the paying public
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