Kevin Pietersen: Ben Stokes is ‘devaluing his wicket’, should take Jonny Bairstow’s approach | Cricket News


KP on Ben Stokes: “He doesn’t need to lose his head and slog the ball up into the air. He is too good a player for that”; Mark Butcher on Jonny Bairstow: “He is in that zone where he is slowing down time because his decision-making is absolutely laser sharp”

Last Updated: 03/07/22 6:03pm


Ben Stokes was eventually caught brilliantly by Jasprit Bumrah at mid-off - one ball after being dropped by the same fielder.

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Ben Stokes was eventually caught brilliantly by Jasprit Bumrah at mid-off – one ball after being dropped by the same fielder.

Ben Stokes was eventually caught brilliantly by Jasprit Bumrah at mid-off – one ball after being dropped by the same fielder.

Kevin Pietersen believes England captain Ben Stokes is “devaluing his wicket” and has urged him to follow the lead of Jonny Bairstow, a man Mark Butcher says is experiencing “batting nirvana”.

Stokes was dropped twice before being caught at mid-off for a skittish 25 on day three of the LV=Insurance fifth Test against India at Edgbaston as he played another entertaining but fleeting knock.

The left-hander has fallen in similar fashion throughout the summer, looking to take the game to the opposition as he lives the attacking mantra he and coach Brendon McCullum have championed.

Stokes’ exit this time left England 149-6 in reply to India’s 416 all out before Bairstow’s third hundred in four innings, a 140-ball 106, eventually propelled the hosts to 284 all out.

Stokes' skittish innings included being dropped on 18 by Shardul Thakur at cover

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Stokes’ skittish innings included being dropped on 18 by Shardul Thakur at cover

Stokes’ skittish innings included being dropped on 18 by Shardul Thakur at cover

Former England batter Pietersen told Sky Sports: “I was watching Stokes in that little passage of play when he ran down the wicket and slogged the ball straight into the air a few times. It was reckless batting, it was not defending your wicket, not protecting the value of your wicket.

“Test match hundreds are valuable commodities, they mean a hell of a lot because of the stress, tension, patience and discipline that goes into them. That devaluing of his wicket is something I think may not be a good thing.”

KP’s advice for Stokes: Stand still like Bairstow

“I would tell Ben that he doesn’t need to try and prove a point by being ultra-aggressive. The bowler needs to be bowling his best deliveries in order to get Stokes out. At the moment, I see Stokes trying to command authority by running at bowlers.

“He doesn’t need to lose his head and slog the ball up into the air when England are in strife. Stokes can stand still and do what Bairstow is doing. I wouldn’t tell him at all not to go after the bowlers but please stand still. He is too good a player to be doing what he is doing.”

Stokes hit three fours and was dropped twice in his 36-ball knock at Edgbaston

Stokes hit three fours and was dropped twice in his 36-ball knock at Edgbaston

Sky Sports’ Mark Butcher added: “I played under Adam Hollioake [at Surrey] and he would never ask anyone in his team to do something he was unwilling to do himself.

“Stokes is trying to lay down a marker and say ‘if I can go out there and give my wicket away, be selfless in pursuit of a team goal, then you can, too’.

“My misgiving with that is that, as we saw in that incredible Test innings against Australia at Headingley [in 2019] when he was on about two off 60 balls, Stokes can hold off pressure.

“England are going to have to find the line between being hyper-aggressive and taking the game forward, and then sometimes taking a tiny step back, being smart and then piling in again later on.”

Jonny Bairstow is having a summer to cherish!

Jonny Bairstow is having a summer to cherish!

‘Bairstow is slowing down time with laser-sharp decisions’

Bairstow appears to have the balance right, with two centuries at under a run a ball during the 3-0 series sweep of New Zealand and now a ton clinched from 116 deliveries against India.

Butcher said: “Bairstow is in that zone where he is slowing down time. The bowling feels like 50 or 60mph to him whereas to everyone else it is 90mph. He is doing that because his decision-making is absolutely laser sharp.

“Anything on a good length he is defending but every time the ball moves out of that zone – either short or full – it is disappearing.

“He has been discriminatory in that he is able to siphon out the deliveries that are in the danger zone, treating them with respect, and then utterly disrespecting everything else.

“That is when you know you are in batting nirvana.”

Tempers flared between Bairstow and India's Virat Kohli on the third day at Edgbaston

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Tempers flared between Bairstow and India’s Virat Kohli on the third day at Edgbaston

Tempers flared between Bairstow and India’s Virat Kohli on the third day at Edgbaston

Pietersen said of Bairstow: “He is playing with control. He is calm, composed, he is standing still, and playing the ball as he sees it. He is not running down the wicket, he is not slogging. He is being calculated and he is playing fabulously. It’s not reckless at all.”

What does sporting nirvana feel like?

Bairstow’s supreme form began a wider chat about what it feels like to be ‘in the zone’ as a batter.

Butcher said: “The worst time for a batter is when the brain is engaged – you are feeling, hearing and noticing everything, thinking about what is going on. The best time is when you are thinking about nothing at all, watching the ball and reacting to it.

“It doesn’t come around very often but the great players are able to bottle that and make it happen more often than the good and average ones. If I knew the secret, I wouldn’t be sat here, I’d be on a yacht somewhere!

“On the handful of occasions that I was ‘in the zone’, it felt like I could do it forever, the mind was quiet and there was no fatigue. I felt I could hit the ball wherever I wanted it to go. It just felt slow.”

Bairstow clinched his third Test ton in his last four innings from 116 balls

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Bairstow clinched his third Test ton in his last four innings from 116 balls

Bairstow clinched his third Test ton in his last four innings from 116 balls

Pietersen – England’s sixth-highest run-scorer in Test cricket, with 8,181 in 104 matches – added: “It felt quite strange. I was sort of pre-empting where the ball was going to be delivered.

“I remember batting against Dale Steyn at Headingley, batting in Mumbai in a Test match, and at the back of the bowler’s mark, you are saying, ‘this ball will be delivered here, I’m going to play this shot’. It’s quite crazy that on so many occasions the ball ended up being there.

“For me, it wasn’t the thinking of nothing. It was that premonition of knowing where the ball would be before it is delivered.”

Watch day four of the fifth LV=Insurance Test between England and India live on Sky Sports Cricket on Monday. Coverage begins at 9.45am with the first ball at 10.30am.





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