England prepare for Stokes setback for the third Test against Pakistan
Stokes suffered a calf injury while bowling on Monday as England closed in on a mammoth 330-run win in the second Test at Old Trafford to level the four-match series at 1-1.
The sight of a grimacing Stokes slowly walking off the field in Manchester suggested that, at the very least, the Durham star would struggle to be fit for the third Test at Birmingham’s Edgbaston ground, which gets underway a week on Wednesday.
Doing without Stokes, however, is something England have got used to in a season where he has started only two out of five Tests and has not finished one.
A left knee injury cut short Stokes’s participation in the first Test against Sri Lanka in May and left the 25-year-old needing surgery which saw him miss the final two Tests of that series, as well as the subsequent one-dayers and lone Twenty20.
But in Stokes’s absence, Warwickshire’s Chris Woakes – also a pace-bowling all-rounder – seized the chance to revive an international career that appeared to have come to a halt, producing an impressive series of performances with both bat and ball.
Nevertheless, England coach Trevor Bayliss remains well aware of Stokes’s value to the team.
“If he does miss out, it will give someone else an opportunity,” said Bayliss at Old Trafford following England’s commanding victory at Lancashire’s headquarters.
“Yes, he’s a big player for us – he adds a lot of spark to the team.
“He bats, bowls and he’s a leader in the field – so it is a bit of a hole.
“But Woakes has done brilliantly so far this season, so we are lucky in that aspect.”
No Vince guarantee
England captain Alastair Cook and Joe Root made more than 500 runs between them in Manchester, with Vice-captain Root making a Test-best 254 in a first-innings where his skipper posted a century.
As Bayliss pointed out, all teams are reliant on their best batsmen. But, ideally, England would like the two other members of their top four, opener Alex Hales and James Vince, to shoulder a larger share of the burden.
Hampshire captain Vince has yet to make a Test fifty in seven innings and was once more caught off an edged drive, for 18, at Old Trafford.
“I don’t see there’s any reason to panic just at the moment,” said Bayliss. “As I said after the last game, though, runs will count.
The Australian added, “I’m sure (Vince’s place) will come up for discussion before Edgbaston.
“Yes, I’d like to see people given a little bit more of an extra go. But we’ve never put a quantity on it – never said ‘five Tests, six Tests, seven Tests’, or whatever it might be.
“It will be a little bit of a gut feel… if there’s someone else that warrants a place to replace a player like that.”
Bayliss said Vince’s offside problems were comparable to batsmen unable to resist hooking.
“We’ve probably all seen it before – the ‘happy hooker’, (you tell him to) give the hook shot away.
“It might get you out a few times, but it scores you a lot of runs. So what do you do?
“His cover-drive is one of his better shots.
“We’ve spoken about it; just letting a few more balls go and let the bowlers come to him before he plays his favourite shot.
“It’s obviously only a split-second to make that decision, but he’s fully aware of it.”