BATSMAN Ian Bell has backed all-rounder Ben Stokes to be an England cricket star of the future after his maiden Test half-century helped to delay Australia’s Ashes series victory yesterday.
Stokes hit 72 not out as he and Bell enjoyed a 99-run fifth-wicket partnership that carried England to 251-5 at stumps, 253 short of their target, in the third Test.
They were set to resume early this morning needing to bat out the entire final day at the WACA in Perth to prevent Australia winning the series 3-0 with two matches to spare and ending their seven-year wait to reclaim the Ashes.
The Durham 22-year-old has been a rare bright spot in an otherwise disastrous tour for England, having come into the middle order following Jonathan Trott’s departure due to a stress-related illness, shining with both bat and ball in his first two Test appearances.
“He’s fantastic,” said Bell, who made 60 before edging an uppercut to wicketkeeper Brad Haddin that was only picked up by sound-detector Snicko on review.
“Since we’ve been here in the nets he’s looked a quality batsman. He’s been a real find for us. Going forward, everything looks like he’s going to have a great career for England.”
Australia capitalised on a demoralised England bowling attack shorn of the injured Stuart Broad with a morning of brutal batting that helped them set Alastair Cook’s men a world record target of 504 to win.
Shane Watson smashed a rapid century – 103 off 108 balls – while George Bailey weighed in with 39 not out as captain Michael Clarke declared on 369-6.
England’s forlorn reply got off to the worst possible start, skipper Cook going for golden duck, bowled by Ryan Harris.
Michael Carberry and Joe Root’s 62-run partnership steadied the tourists, and Kevin Pietersen briefly dazzled before holing out to long on trying to bring up his half-century with a six.