England allrounder Ben Stokes says he’s relishing the extra responsibility bestowed upon him by skipper Alastair Cook after putting his side on the brink of Ashes glory.
The combative New Zealand-born Stokes bowled superbly on Friday to take 5-35 as the tourists were reduced to 7-241 – still 90 runs behind England in what’s been a disastrous Test for Michael Clarke’s side.
With Jimmy Anderson missing with a side strain, Stokes stepped up superbly to back up Stuart Broad after Mark Wood and Steve Finn struggled for a breakthrough and dismissed Chris Rogers, David Warner and Shaun Marsh before tea on day two at Trent Bridge.
He also took a fine low catch to send Steve Smith back to the pavilion for just five after playing a rash shot off Broad on the stroke of the tea interval, capping off a great day for the flame-haired 24-year-old.
Stokes’ efforts very nearly helped deliver England the Ashes on Friday night, but refused to accept it was a fait accompli just yet.
“We know their tail can hang around and we need to make sure tomorrow we bowl as well as we did tonight and don’t have to put the pads on,” Stokes said.
“The Ashes are not quite in our grasp yet but it’s very close.
“Jimmy was a massive loss but we knew as a four-man bowling attack we had to perform and after Broady’s fantastic spell on that first day. It was good to back him up because he can’t take every wicket.”
Smith declared before the series that England “wouldn’t get near Australia,” a claim that has been made to look ridiculous by a young England side that are a stark contrast to the rabble that left Australian shores in 2013/14 and in this year’s Cricket World Cup.
Stokes said the comments had been noted with interest by the home side, but managed to restrain himself when asked what was said.
“Yeah we did see that,” he smirked.
“I don’t want to go too far with this … but we’re hopefully going to lift the Ashes (on Saturday).”
He also revealed the Australians had been noticeably quiet on the field following their heavy defeat at Edgbaston last week and their horror day one display when they were bowled out for 60.
“Australia are a bit louder (than other teams),” Stokes said.
“But when your team is on top you can react how you want. We are in a really good position and want to focus on what we do.”