Stokes primed for success on familiar turf

Tue, Jan 12, 2010 11:07 AM

Durham all-rounder Ben Stokes returns home to New Zealand for the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup as a vital part of an England squad hoping for their first world title since 1998.

Stokes showed just how talented he is with the bat by scoring 50 not out off just 32 balls against a Wellington selection last week which included former New Zealand BLACKCAP Mark Gillespie and current first-class players Ili Tugaga, Mark Houghton and Robbie Schaw.

The 18-year old Stokes made his List A debut for Durham against Surrey during the home summer in May 2009 and made an immediate impact by dismissing County cricket stalwart Mark Ramprakash in his first over.

"It was a good debut I guess, having Ramprakash as my first wicket," said Stokes. "Up until then I'd done alright for the second team and I was a bit of a random call-up really - I did my best and enjoyed it.

"I just had to execute my skills as well as I could and I didn't have to bowl to him for too long which was lucky because I got him out in my first over.

"I'm trying to cement the all-rounder's spot in the middle order and I'd like to think of myself as a batting all-rounder."

England arrived in New Zealand with a squad full of County first team experience as ten of the squad of 15 have already played representative cricket.

"I think we've got a good enough team here to win the tournament. We're all talented, if we can execute our skills when we come up against the best teams like India and Pakistan hopefully it will be enough for us to win."

Stokes toured Bangladesh in October with the England Under-19 team and had the disappointment of suffering a 5-2 series loss against a very competitive Bangladesh outfit.

With temperatures in Bangladesh in the mid-30s and humidity levels up around 100%, conditions couldn't have been more different to what teams will face here in New Zealand - something which should help England.

"Bangladesh was hot, sticky and no wind, so windy Wellington has been good for us to cool down, however I found out you get sunburnt a lot easier. It's nice weather to play cricket in."

Stokes lived in New Zealand up until the age of 12, and actually played age-group cricket for Wellington with Birmingham-born all-rounder Harry Boam, who is in the New Zealand Under-19 squad at the U19 CWC.

"I can't remember much about him because I was young but I remember playing cricket at Under-12 level with him for Wellington. He's a good cricketer."

As a youngster Stokes was also a very handy Rugby League player, a game which he continued playing during his time in the north of England. The demands of both sports began to take their toll, however, and it was clear to Stokes as he entered his teens that he had to make a choice between the two. Cricket fans will be pleased he chose cricket.

"It was my main sport before I moved to England. League was a game I played every day whereas cricket only started to get serious when I moved over. When I was about 15 I had to make a decision and I chose cricket."

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