Stokes 'getting better and better' as England level series

By Sports Desk July 20, 2020

Joe Root praised Stuart Broad and Ben Stokes after the duo were influential in helping England level the Test series against West Indies.

Stokes followed up his knock of 176 in the first innings with an unbeaten 78 that allowed England to set up the opportunity to push for victory on the final day, as he added quick runs on the fifth morning.

The all-rounder then picked up two wickets - including crucially ending Jermaine Blackwood's resistance on 55 - as West Indies, chasing an unlikely 312 for victory, were bowled out for 198.

Root acknowledged match-winning contributions are becoming a common occurrence from his vice-captain, telling Sky Sports after the triumph at Old Trafford: "It doesn't surprise me.

"You watch how Ben goes about his business in practice whether it be practice, fitness or anything, he leads the way in many respects.

"He seems to want to keep getting better and better and we're seeing those results out on the field as well.

"It's great for a lot of the younger guys to see that, you've got to put the hard yards in, he certainly does that and we're starting to see that feed into the rest of the team, which is a great place to be."

Broad had boosted the home team's hopes on the final morning of the second Test with three top-order wickets, having also previously produced a devastating new-ball burst in West Indies' first innings.

The seamer was a surprise omission from England's line-up for the opening Test in Southampton - a game West Indies won by four wickets - but, asked to lead a new-look pace attack, he seized his opportunity in Manchester.

Broad had spoken publicly about his disappointment at missing out at the Rose Bowl, with Root not surprised to see him go out and back up his words on the field.

"You always expect that from Stuart. Generally, when he says something, he goes out there and produces a performance to back it up," Root said. 

"He's led the attack brilliantly this week and, as we've always said, you feel like he's got a lot of cricket left to play in him.

"Once he gets that ball in his hand, there's always that spell in him that can turn a game. He did that this week."

Stokes cut short his 15th over in West Indies' second innings due to an apparent fitness issue but insisted afterwards he was fine. The series finale starts on Friday at the same venue.

"The body just started to get quite stiff," he said to Sky Sports after being named player of the match. "I said to Broady, 'My body is starting to get quite stiff, what do you reckon?' and he just said to stop.

"I remember three or four years ago against Pakistan I had the same thing and ended up blowing my calf, so I didn't want to take that risk."

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