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New Delhi, July 5 – Former Australia captain Ricky Ponting has compared Ben Stokes’ match-winning ability with that of India great MS Dhoni, who is regarded as the best finisher in the modern game, and believes the England skipper excels at handling pressure more than most of his current contemporaries.
During the second Ashes Test against Australia at Lord’s, Stokes almost single-handedly dragged his side over the line with a brilliant century that included a record-breaking nine sixes.
It wasn’t the first time that Stokes has terrorised Australia, the brilliant all-rounder produced similar heroics during the 2019 Ashes series in England when he smashed an unbeaten 135 to help pull off a remarkable one-wicket victory over Australia.
“I think any international player is under pressure anytime they walk out to play, but Ben batting in the middle order or later order like he does, probably finds himself in more match-winning opportunity situations than some others might,” Ponting said.
“The first one that comes to mind is maybe someone like a Dhoni, who’s there at the end in a lot of T20 games, and finishing games, whereas Ben’s doing it at the end of Test matches, and there’s not, probably not many, many players through the history of the game that have found themselves in that sort of role and are there at the end winning games, and especially as a captain,” Ponting said on the latest episode of The ICC Review.
Ponting also revealed he had Stokes’ match-winning innings at Headingley from four years ago at the back of his mind during a pulsating final day at Lord’s and was relieved when Australia finally got the breakthrough and dismissed him for 155.
“I thought and everyone probably thought he could do it again because we’ve seen it happen before, but this was probably, slightly more runs that they were chasing (in 2019),”
“In the back of everyone’s minds, I think once it started playing out the way that it was and how many similarities there were to Headingley in 2019…Steve Smith dropped him…and he was dropped on 116 by Marcus Harris at Headingley, So, those sort of ghosts of the past kept coming back out.”
While Stokes only averages just north of 36 with the bat at Test level and more than 32 with the ball, Ponting acknowledges the star all-rounder has the remarkable ability to influence games at a level that don’t do those modest numbers justice.
“We have all over the years really only sort of judged cricketers on their numbers and their stats of what their average is and how many wickets they take. If you looked at Ben Stokes in that light only, it doesn’t do him full credit to the player that he is as he averages 35 (36) with the bat and 32 with the ball,” Ponting noted.
“So those numbers alone don’t sort of put him in the highest echelon of players. But when you see him play like he did (at Lord’s) and do some of the things he’s done for this team over a long period of time, then we have to find ways to start measuring cricketers in a better way of how they impact games, how many games they actually can win themselves because he’s an out and out match-winner, that’s for sure,” he added.
Stokes was the match-winner for England with a composed half-century against Pakistan in the final of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup last year and Ponting is impressed with his ability to be able to absorb pressure and adjust his game accordingly.