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Ben Stokes happy to see South Africa ‘keep talking’ about England’s new approach

England captain Ben Stokes is gearing up for the first Test against South Africa (John Walton/PA).
England captain Ben Stokes is gearing up for the first Test against South Africa (John Walton/PA).

Ben Stokes admits taking some satisfaction from hearing South Africa counterpart Dean Elgar wade into the debate about England’s new approach to Test cricket.

The England skipper has distanced himself from the term ‘Bazball’, coined to reflect the aggressive approach since he and head coach Brendon McCullum took the helm, but was interested to note Elgar’s apparent critique of those methods.

Speaking last week the Proteas skipper said he had “absolutely no interest” in England’s rebooted style, which has delivered four wins out of four so far, but also suggested he was sceptical about how successful it would be in the long term.

Invited to respond to his opposite number on the eve of Wednesday’s first Test at Lord’s, Stokes said: “The opposition seem to be doing a lot of talking about it at the moment, we don’t really speak about that much. We just concentrate on what we do.

“We don’t dive into it too much, but I’m happy for Dean and the South Africa team to say they’re not interested and then keep talking about it.

“We’ve got a style of play, they’ve got a style of play. At the end of the day it’s bat against ball and whoever plays best over a Test match is more than likely to win.”

England have kept faith with a tried and trusted side, with Ben Foakes’ return in place of Sam Billings the only alteration to the team which defeated India at Edgbaston last time out.

Wicketkeeper Ben Foakes returns after missing the last Test with Covid.
Wicketkeeper Ben Foakes returns after missing the last Test with coronavirus (Mike Egerton/PA)

Foakes missed that game due to a brush with coronavirus but his recall, as well as the decision to leave out Ollie Robinson on his long-awaited return to the squad, was a simple call for Stokes.

“I think everyone in the XI who you’ll see (on Wednesday), the shirt is theirs at the moment,” he said, cementing the pecking order.

“It was definitely quite an easy decision based on our previous four performances.

“Me and Baz keep saying we feel we’ve got all bases covered if something unfortunate was to happen to any of our players and that’s definitely somewhere… you’d rather be there than scratching your head thinking ‘Who are we going to pick?’.

“Foakesy is the best wicketkeeper in the world. To have world-class quality behind the stumps is almost like a pillow, knowing that you’ve got someone with his skill level behind there.”

Robinson has to bide his time for his first outing since the Ashes ended in January – a spell that has seen him battle a series of fitness issues and concerns over his conditioning – with a seam line-up of Stuart Broad, Matthew Potts and James Anderson, who will lead the attack as a 40-year-old for the first time.

“That’s phenomenal. He’s got the label ‘The freak’, to be able to do what he does at that age,” Stokes said.

“I was shouting at him at fielding the other day, like shouting ’40’ at him and he didn’t really like it. But I think he’s an unbelievable ambassador for the game and also an ambassador for fast bowlers in the future – for them to look at someone at 40, to say he is still one of the best in the world.”