The England all-rounder, Ben Stokes, has been ruled out of the third test against Pakistan at Edgbaston. Could his absence upset the balance of the side and tip the scales in the opposition’s favour?
Ben Stokes missed England’s first test against Pakistan emerged as victors by 75 runs. The 25-year-old returned to the fold for the second meeting of the two sides at Old Trafford, as England bounced back to level the series at 1-1. The hosts annihilated their opposition, and won by 330 runs. Stokes put in a fairly decent performance with 34 runs and 2 wickets, but it was perhaps his dressing room and on-pitch presence that helped spur the Lions on to victory.
In the stunning victory, Stokes received the crushing blow that his injury woes are far from over. He tore a muscle in his right calf while bowling, and has not been selected for the Edgbaston test that starts on Wednesday. After suffering from knee problems that saw him miss most of the Sri Lankan tour and the first test against Pakistan, the player who has been compared to Andrew Flintoff by some will be desperately hoping he can recover quickly. If he had managed to avoid injury and had the chance to push on properly after his record innings of 258 against South Africa last year, he could have been on the path towards becoming one of the world’s best.
Even in the all-rounder’s absence, England at odds of 4/6 in the cricket betting to win the series at the time of writing. If they fail to win the third test, though, the best they can hope for is a draw, with the odds for that outcome currently at 5/2.
The Lions are well favoured for the series after Joe Root’s imperious form shone through in the second test. The Yorkshireman bagged 254 runs in the first innings against Pakistan at Old Trafford, and followed up his career best with 71 not out in the second innings. Certainly, with the 25-year-old fresh from such a huge confidence boost, the Lions will fancy their number 3 batsman can build upon those astonishing hits. The captain, Alastair Cook, is also in fine fettle having scored a century and two fifties so far in the series.
On the back of a solid performance in the second test, England should be able to push on and gain the upper hand in the third. The Lions already have another all-rounder at their disposal in Chris Woakes, who has made an excellent case for his permanent inclusion. The 27-year-old has already picked up 18 wickets and is odds on at 1/16 to be England’s bowler of the series. He hasn’t been quite as convincing with the bat, though, so England may want to play a specialist batsman in Stokes’s place.
There is no doubt that the absence of Stokes is a huge blow for the player and the team, but England have shown how devastating they can be, and can push on to win this series.