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England- South Africa Series

England potential excites skipper Stokes after SA series win



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|| AFP ||

Ben Stokes said on Monday it was "scary" to think of what England might achieve after rounding off a succesful first-season as captain with a dominant display against South Africa.

England needed just 25 minutes at the Oval to complete a nine-wicket win over the Proteas in barely more than two days' actual playing time that secured a 2-1 series victory.

It also meant England had won six out of seven Tests under a new leadership duo of Stokes and coach Brendon McCullum -- a far cry from a record of one win in 17 matches that marked the end of Joe Root's reign as skipper.  

New Zealand, the World Test champions were beaten 3-0 before England defeated India in a one-off Test, held over from last year because of coronavirus concerns in the Indian camp, prior to seeing off the Proteas.

All of those triumphs were marked by a willingness to engage in dashing run-chases, while removing as much pressure from players as possible, albeit much of England's success, as South Africa captain Dean Elgar noted, was built on traditional fundamentals of the red-ball game. 

But they all took place on home soil and Stokes is determined England should "walk towards danger", in cricket terms, during their next Test series, a three-match tour of Pakistan in December.

England have been without two injured fast bowlers in Jofra Archer and Mark Wood all season, but Stokes is excited by the prospect of both express quicks being available when his team try to regain the Ashes at home to arch-rivals Australia next year. 

"Who knows how far we can take this side over the next couple of years?," he said.

"We've got two of our premium fast bowlers who have had big injuries this summer and have missed a lot of cricket.

"You add Jofra and Woody into the mix being fully fit -- it's scary to think where things could go, especially with the ball."

'Excited' by Pakistan challenge 

But before then England face the very different challenge posed by going to Pakistan, where they have not played a series since 2005 due to security concerns.

"It is something that we are going to have to try to continue to do in Pakistan, we can't live off the fact that we've won six out of seven games because we will be presented with a completely different challenge," he said.

"(We must) Walk towards that danger of what Pakistan is going to throw at us.

"It's a hot country, you are not going to get anywhere near as much assistance with the ball as you do in England. You will be facing a lot more spin. 

"That's a new challenge for us and something we are excited by. To show in different situations we can show off the positive mindset and always try to put the pressure back onto the opposition," he added.

Even former New Zealand captain McCullum has been surprised by how well Stokes has performed since taking charge.

It is barely 12 months since Stokes was battling anxiety and panic attacks which contributed to him taking a break from the game.

Stokes also had to deal with the loss of his father to brain cancer in 2020, with the painful subjects covered in a no-holds-barred television documentary about the all-rounder.

"We've all seen the documentary and the pressures he's had in his life, but where he's at right now, the person he is and the captain he is, is someone we can all be really proud of," McCullum said.

"I thought he'd be good as a leader, but I didn't realise he'd be quite as good as what he is. His own game is phenomenal, his leadership qualities are amazing and he runs through brick walls for the side.

"He's not just been able to deliver a message but allowed the message to go across the entire group."