England captain Joe Root hailed the influence of “golden nugget” Ben Stokes, who put in a match-winning performance with bat, ball and in the field to seal the second Test against South Africa by 189 runs at Newlands on Tuesday.
“He’s a golden nugget, isn’t he?” a beaming Root told reporters. “He is just a fantastic specimen. You put him in a lot of different situations and he just stands up to it. He’s a born match-winner who will always put the team first and give everything for the group of players he is playing alongside. He’s a fantastic example to a young squad of players, which we have got here.”
Stokes managed to get his bowling speeds up to more than 140-kilometres-an-hour late on the fifth afternoon after a hot day, summoning reserves of energy few others would be able to muster. “When you can throw him the ball and he bowls an eight over spell like that to win you the game, after playing like he did yesterday with the bat, there are not many sides who have a Ben Stokes in them,” Root said.
“We are very lucky to be witnessing what we are at the moment.” Root added that one of the all-rounder’s best traits is his desire to be the match-winner, be it with the bat, ball or the six catches he took in the test at slip.
“He puts himself in those situations, he puts his hand up and wants to be the one to win you the game,” the skipper said. “That is a great example to everyone, whether you are at the start of your career or have played a lot. “He is that character that you want to turn to when nothing is happening and he will try to drag the game back in your favour,” he added. “We have seen it time and time again now, but for him to keep doing it the way he has done over the last year and for it not to be a flash-in-the-pan type of thing is testament to how hard he works in training.”
England levelled the four-match series at 1-1, with the third Test to start in Port Elizabeth on January 16.
Stokes had earlier made an unbeaten 135 to help England chase down 359 to beat Australia by one wicket in the Ashes series, with No 11 Jack Leach contributing one not out to a last-wicket stand of 76.
“That was just ridiculous, wasn’t it?”, said Root, who was almost speechless as he tried to digest a victory that leaves the sides poised at 1-1 going into next week’s fourth Test in Manchester.
“To be 67 all out and win a game of cricket! It took a heroic, freakish effort from Ben to get us over the line. He’s the ultimate team man. That’s why he’s a brilliant vice-captain. He drags people with him,” he recalled.