England captain Ben Stokes smashes blistering hundred on return to county action
Ben Stokes returned to action in astonishing fashion for the first time since being named England Test captain with a record-breaking century for Durham in the LV= Insurance County Championship match with Worcestershire.
The all-rounder struck 17 sixes, a century before lunch, and 34 off an over from Josh Baker on his way to 161 from just 88 deliveries at New Road.
Stokes beat the record of 16 maximums in a Championship innings, by Gloucestershire’s Andrew Symonds in 1995 and Essex’s Graham Napier in 2011.
His efforts enabled Durham to declare on 580 for six shortly after lunch and then a five-wicket haul from Matthew Potts reduced Worcestershire to 169 for six by the close despite a century stand between in-form pair Brett D’Oliveira and Ed Barnard.
Fittingly, Stokes’ exploits were witnessed by Durham chair Sir Ian Botham, whose own career was famed for such performances.
And from England’s point of view it was a delight to see Stokes in such destructive form before he takes over from Joe Root against New Zealand in the Lord’s Test starting on June 2.
He entered the playing area to a warm reception and returned to a standing ovation from a decent-sized crowd privileged to have witnessed such fireworks.
Durham resumed on 339 for three and Ben Gibbon picked up his second scalp of the innings when Scott Borthwick was lbw for 89.
Stokes scored just 12 runs from his opening 30 deliveries but then came the sort of hitting that has made him one of cricket’s box-office attractions during the past decade.
His first maximum was a huge hit off Barnard over midwicket and set the tone for the remainder of the morning.
England Under-19 spinner Baker bore the brunt in one over where he was in acute danger of being hit for six sixes. The first five deliveries cleared the ropes, three over long-on, as Stokes’ century came up from 64 balls.
There was a conference between Baker, club captain D’Oliveira and other players before the final ball. Stokes struck it down the ground but it bounced once before clearing the boundary, much to his frustration.
But he did not let it affect him and launched another six onslaught against Worcestershire’s long-serving talisman Joe Leach.
David Bedingham completed an excellent hundred of his own from just 120 balls, his second in the Championship this summer, as the morning session produced a staggering 210 runs from 27 overs.
Stokes reached 150 by hitting the first ball after the interval for six, and the Championship six record was achieved with a straight hit off D’Oliveira.
An unforgettable innings finally ended when he holed out to Jack Haynes on the midwicket boundary off D’Oliveira.
Anything after that almost felt like an anti-climax but that would be an injustice to Bedingham, whose knock of 135 ended shortly before the declaration when he drilled Baker to long-off.
Potts produced a superb spell with the new ball under increasingly leaden skies to reduce Worcestershire to 41 for four.
Jake Libby pushed forward and was caught behind for a first-ball duck and Pakistan international Azhar Ali clipped a leg-stump delivery straight to mid-wicket, also without troubling the scorers.
Haynes was lbw to a delivery which nipped back and Potts claimed his fourth wicket when Pollock, on 32, nicked to Ned Eckersley.
Stokes almost broke through in his first over when Barnard chopped onto the base of the stumps but the bails were not dislodged.
The Test skipper has been advised by the ECB to monitor his workload on his return to action and bowled an initial spell of five overs for one run before returning for another four-over burst after tea.
D’Oliveira and Barnard’s century partnership came up from 194 balls and the pair looked relatively untroubled until being dismissed in successive overs.
D’Oliveira (41) slashed at Chris Rushworth and fell to a one-handed catch by keeper Eckersley high to his right. Barnard reached an 86-ball half-century by driving Potts for his ninth boundary but in the same over, on 55, he left a delivery which clipped his off bail.Published: by Radio NewsHub