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Scary to think how far England can go – Ben Stokes

Ben Stokes feels England can reach new heights (John Walton/PA)
Ben Stokes feels England can reach new heights (John Walton/PA)

Ben Stokes feels it is “scary” to contemplate England’s ceiling after a transformative summer as their talismanic Test captain revealed he already has his sights on the 2023 Ashes.

England needed just 25 minutes on the final morning to wrap up a 2-1 LV= Insurance series win over South Africa on Monday, claiming their sixth Test win in a home summer for the first time since 2004.

Alongside head coach Brendon McCullum, Stokes has galvanised a side that won just once in 17 Tests prior to their appointments, doing so despite a number of fast bowlers being sidelined with injuries.

Stokes namechecked Jofra Archer and Mark Wood as two players he feels can take them to greater heights, with the hope the pair will be firing on all cylinders by the time the Ashes rolls around next summer.

He said: “Who knows how far we can take this side over the next couple of years? 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. And the batters that we’ve got coming through, it’s a very high ceiling.”

While Stokes is already relishing the chance of another crack at Australia, who regained the urn after a 4-0 triumph Down Under last winter, the all-rounder admitted England cannot look too far forward.

The expansive approach they have undertaken under the new management will be stress tested in a two-match trip against Pakistan in December and Stokes insisted he was not taking the tour lightly.

Ben Stokes, centre, and Brendon McCullum, right
Ben Stokes, centre, and Brendon McCullum, right, have instilled a positive and relaxed mindset (Steven Paston/PA)

He said: “I am excited by the Ashes next summer, especially with the way we are playing.

“I am looking at it, it’s hard not to look at it, especially with how the last Ashes trip went. But we have got to concentrate on Pakistan first and foremost.

“It would be silly not to reflect on this summer, and not take too much into it because it’s a very special thing we’ve managed to achieve.

“This has been a huge collective responsibility put on everyone this summer and everyone’s dived into it and everyone’s really taken to it like a duck to water.

“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.”

England will at least go into their next assignment brimming with confidence after a comprehensive nine-wicket win over South Africa in a truncated third Test, with Zak Crawley’s 69 not out underpinning a successful chase of 130.

Zak Crawley celebrates his half-century against South Africa
Zak Crawley made an overdue half-century (John Walton/PA)

It was Crawley’s first fifty in 17 Test innings as he ended his disappointing summer positively, which included hitting the winning runs as England claimed the 33 they still needed on Monday inside six overs.

Asked whether his faith in the under-fire opener has wavered, Stokes answered: “The best thing to say would be ‘no’ here, but I can categorically say that at no stage throughout the whole summer have I ever doubted Zak Crawley opening the batting.”

Alex Lees was the only wicket to fall for the hosts as he was dismissed for 39 in a streaky innings in which he was dropped twice, but he still played his part in England’s fastest century opening partnership – as he and Crawley reached their side’s three figures in just 17.2 overs.

Stokes said: “They’ve not got the number of runs that they would have liked to. But what they have done is they have been the guys who have set the tone for these particular moments for us.

“(They) have taken away any selfish goals in their international career and really focused on what is required and needed of the team.”