By Glen Robertson
Ben Stokes was left reflecting on the best week of his career after his maiden LV= County Championship success was followed by inclusion in the England squad for this winter’s Ashes series.
The 22-year-old all-rounder shone as Durham, tipped to struggle at the start of the campaign, secured the Division One title with a game to spare, wrapping it up with an eight-wicket victory over Nottinghamshire on Thursday at the Emirates Durham ICG.
He took 40 wickets in 12 championship outings and added 563 runs to his side's cause, while he showed his talents on the international stage with a five-for in the fifth NatWest Series one-day international against Australia at the Ageas Bowl a week ago.
Those performances persuaded the England selectors that he warranted inclusion in the 17-man touring party for the five-match Test series this winter against the Aussies, and the news topped off Stokes’ perfect week.
“It’s been a really good week; winning the championship and being announced in the Ashes Test team is pretty special, “ he told ecb.co.uk.
“It’s the first time I’ve won the championship and my first time as part of an Ashes team and they’ve both happened together. It’s been a hectic week for myself, and for everyone involved with Durham, but it’s been absolutely fantastic."
But the news caught Stokes unawares. He admitted that he had not been expecting to be involved this winter until National Selector Geoff Miller rang him yesterday to deliver the good news.
“Three or four weeks ago it was something I wasn’t even thinking of,” he said. “Geoff Miller rang me yesterday morning and, to be honest, I’m pretty shocked and surprised that I was in the squad.
“If you look at how well the Ashes team did, then you think ‘why would they stray any further off than the squad they already had?’. So it did come as a bit of a shock but I’m really looking forward to it.”
Now he has forced his way into contention, Stokes is determined to make the most of an opportunity that will have cricketers up and down the country eyeing him with envy.
“I’m going out to Australia as part of an Ashes squad; it is a dream every cricketer has,” he said. “I’m really looking forward to the experience.
“Making the squad was the first bit; I’ve now got to go out there and train hard to try to give myself the best chance of getting a game.
“I’ll be training my hardest and making sure that I stay fit, ready to be called on. I just can’t wait to get out there.”