England v Pakistan: talking points from a thrilling first Test | Tim de Lisle

by Theguardian

Cricket

Ben Stokes was sorely missed the last time he was absent but he has not been his superhuman self in the past two Tests

With difficulty. The last time he was absent for more than the odd Test was in the 2017-18 Ashes, when he was helping Bristol police with their inquiries. England lost 4-0, and it was hard to say what they missed most – Stokes’s batting, his bowling or his blazing presence. This summer, though, they’ve already had to do without him to an extent. In the third Test against West Indies, he couldn’t bowl; in the first Test against Pakistan, he barely batted, making 0 and 9. And he’s been dropping catches. If he was superhuman in the first two Covid Tests, he’s been a mere mortal in the past two. Since his debut, England’s record is much the same whether Stokes is on board (won 38, lost 36, drawn 11) or not (won 8, lost 7, drawn 3). His usual understudy is Sam Curran, the man with the golden home record (played 8, won 8). But this time it has to be a batsman, as a fifth bowler had already been brought in to bowl Stokes’s overs. Cometh the hour, cometh Zak Crawley. Curran may sneak in too, depending on …

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