Stokes quick to make his mark
Durham teenager Ben Stokes admits he did not expect to make such a significant impression in his first full season of county cricket.
The 19-year-old batsman, who made his first-class debut in the traditional curtain-raiser between the champion county and MCC, featured in 14 LV= County Championship games in 2010, scoring 798 runs at a healthy average of 44.
He was rewarded for his fine form with a place in England’s Performance Programme squad to tour Australia this winter and is now hoping to build on a superb breakthrough year.
“I was overwhelmed by how much cricket I actually played,” Stokes told ecb.co.uk.
“It was my first season and I’m really happy with how well I did personally, although obviously it’s a bit disappointing where Durham ended up (fifth) after two seasons of winning the championship.
"The pre-season in Dubai (which included the game against MCC) gave me the most confidence. I got runs out there and then Geoff (Cook, Durham head coach) gave me the chance to be in the team for the start of the season.
“He stuck with me and I produced the performances to keep my place in the team.”
On his inclusion in the EPP squad, the youngster added: “That was another plus for the season. Some of the players who are in that have played for England and have played a lot of first-class cricket, so to be involved alongside them is great.
“We’ve got five weeks in Australia and a week’s preparation before we go away. We’ll be put through our paces, but I’m really looking forward to it.”
Stokes has previous experience of touring, having played a starring role for England at the Under-19 World Cup in New Zealand - the country of his birth - at the beginning of the year.
He hit 100 off 88 balls against India as England came through their group with a 100% record before suffering a semi-final defeat at the hands of West Indies.
“This will be the first time I’ve gone to Australia,” he added. “But I guess I sort of know what I’ve got coming in terms of going into a new environment with different players.
“I know what that is like, which should make it easier.”
Although Stokes prospered in the four-day game in 2010, he found runs harder to come by in limited-overs cricket and has outlined his determination to remedy this next year.
He is also keen to improve his bowling after picking up a handful of wickets with his medium-pace this summer.
“I’ve spoken with the bowling coach that is coming away with us to Australia (Kevin Shine) and I’ve told him that I want to work hard on my bowling,” revealed Stokes.
“I’ve got a lot to work to do on it. I bowled a bit this season and was better in the one-day game than in the four-day game.
“I was really disappointed with my batting in the one-day games this year. Hopefully next year I can contribute more in all forms of the game.
“I want to score runs in Twenty20, 40-over and four-day cricket.”