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Stokes gets Stevens seal of approval

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Ben Stokes

Ben Stokes makes his England debut. Darren Stevens, an all-rounder at the opposite end of his career, claims he is a "sensational player"

Evergreen Kent all-rounder Darren Stevens has compared England new boy Ben Stokes to Kevin Pietersen and backed the Durham youngster to light up the international arena.

Stokes, 20, was included in England’s squad for the five-match NatWest Series against India in place of Pietersen, who has been rested.

Having made his England debut against Ireland two weeks ago, the all-rounder featured on his home ground in Saturday’s series opener at the Riverside.

He was denied the chance to impress with the bat that day as rain forced the match to be abandoned, but 35-year-old Stevens is confident Stokes will shine at the highest level.

“He is a fabulous player,” Stevens said. “He reminds me of a young Pietersen. KP was a bully and Stokes is similar; he is a big lad and he has an aura when he stands there.

“He stands there and hits the ball so hard for a young lad. For his sake, I hope he can stay fit because he is a sensational player.”

Stokes is currently carrying a finger injury, which means he will be unable to bowl for the remainder of the season.

However, in the coming years England will hope to benefit from his lively seamers, which Stevens believes add a vital extra dimension to his game.

“Having the bowling will definitely help him,” he added. “My batting has really struggled over the last few weeks in the championship and my bowling has been keeping me going.

Darren Stevens

Stevens' excellent bowling form has helped negate a disappointing summer with the bat - so much so that he won the August FTI MVP

“For him, if he can stay fit and get his bowling going, it just gives him that extra string to his banjo.”

Stokes is just one of several young players giving the England selectors cause for optimism at the moment, with James Taylor, Jos Buttler and Alex Hales having made their international bows in recent weeks.

But another, less well known player, Adam Ball - Stevens’ team-mate at Kent - who has also impressed the veteran.

Ball, another all-rounder, is captain of England Under-19s and Stevens believes his hard-working ethos can see him join the long line of youngsters pressing for full international honours.

“On determination and spirit and everything that he puts in, Adam can go as far as he wants to,” Stevens claimed. “He just needs to put his mind to doing one of his disciplines better than the other.

“He needs to either work really hard on his batting or work even harder on his bowling because I think he is a fabulous prospect. He is 50/50 with both at the moment and I think he needs to work more on one.”

Stevens is enjoying an excellent season himself, culminating in him being voted FTI MVP - the Professional Cricketers’ Association rankings system - for August.

Stevens’ form with the ball has been particularly impressive and he finds himself fourth in the overall standings for the player of the season award.

“I’m delighted to win it this month,” he said. “The main award is a huge thing; it’s based on all forms of the game.

“We all keep an eye on it and it’s a big thing in the changing rooms. I am still a long way behind Marcus Trescothick in the overall standings.

“But he is injured at the moment, so let’s hope I can catch him. You never know - with a bit of luck maybe I’ll be able to get close to him.”

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