After a spell in the IPL last May, Ben Stokes has got better and better. He has churned out several great performances, earning himself a comparison with some of the great English All-Rounders of the past such as Andrew Flintoff and Sir Ian Botham. But is he as good as them yet?
Is Stokes better than Botham or Flintoff?
At 26, he has over 2,000 runs, more than either Botham or Flintoff had at the same stage in their own careers, although Flintoff had played fewer games and has a better average than his counterparts. With the ball, he doesn’t quite measure up to Botham as he leads the way with 215 wickets compared to the 86 wickets Stokes already has, albeit having played fewer games. He is better than Flintoff, however, who had 52 at that age having played fewer games. In terms of economy rates, it is a similar story with Botham having had an economy rate of 2.66, Flintoff 2.88 and Stokes falling behind with 3.41 at this stage of their careers.
At ODI level, Stokes leads the way again in terms of runs scored with 1554 followed by Flintoff with 1478 and Botham with just 593. The averages give us a similar result. Stokes leads the way with 33.78, followed by Flintoff with 30.16 and Botham with just 20.44. Flintoff leads the way in the bowling department with 66 wickets followed by Stokes with 50 and Botham with 45. Botham leads the way in terms of economy rates conceding just 3.73 runs per over when he was the same age as Stokes, Flintoff is second conceding 4.20 runs an over with Stokes possessing the worst economy rate of the three at 6.16 runs an over.
A match winner
His ability to help his team win a match by himself will undoubtedly earn him comparisons with Botham and Flintoff. His 112 from 153 balls against South Africa at the Oval showed composure, patience, control and an understanding of the game situation with overhead conditions favouring bowlers. His unbeaten 102 from 109 balls against Australia in the Champions Trophy earlier this year was key to his side reaching 240. On his first trip to Australia for the Ashes back in 2013, he made 120 in just his second game. Just last year, he shocked the cricketing world with a stunning 258 against a strong South Africa team in Newlands to propel his team to 629 and help draw the game.
On reflection, he probably merits comparisons with the great all-rounders that England have ever had. His batting is better than either Botham’s or Flintoff’s was at the same stage of their career, and while his bowling isn’t as good, over time it will probably get there. His match-winning capabilities are also on a par with Beefy and Freddie but what sets him apart from them is his maturity, control and his ability to read the game and adapt his game to suit the conditions and the state of the game. He can come in with wickets falling around him and be able to slow his game down or he can come in with the team thriving and throw away his wicket to score quick runs to propel his team to a competitive score to declare quickly.
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