Joe Root said Ben Stokes is “born for the big moments” after the all-rounder inspired England to victory in the second Test against South Africa.
All-rounder Stokes hit 72 from 47 balls, took six catches and claimed the last three wickets in England’s 189-run win in Cape Town.
“He’s someone that never backs down from a challenge,” captain Root told the Test Match Special podcast.
“You put him in difficult situations and he will never shy away from it.”
Stokes’ performance came in England’s first Test of 2020 and followed a stellar 2019 that ended with him being crowned as the BBC Sport’s Personality of the Year.
The 28-year-old was the catalyst for England’s victory in the World Cup final and followed that up by playing one of the all-time great Test innings in the third Ashes Test against Australia.
“You look at all the special things he has done in the past year,” added Root. “He’s a great example to a young group of players.”
Root also referenced the final of the 2016 World T20, when England looked set for victory, only for Stokes to be hit for four consecutive sixes in the last over by West Indies’ Carlos Brathwaite.
“He put himself in that situation,” said Root. “He’s been through both sides of it and he’s still very keen to try to deliver for England.”
Stokes’ brutal hitting, on a ground where he smashed 258 four years ago, allowed England to hasten their second-innings declaration on the fourth day.
He had already taken an England record five catches in the first innings and added a sixth in the second.
After some stubborn South African resistance, the tourists still needed to take five wickets in the final session of the fifth day and, with James Anderson struggling with an injury, it was Stokes’ pace and movement that ran through the home tail.
Before the first Test, which England lost, Stokes’ father was admitted to hospital with a serious illness.
Ged Stokes has since been released from intensive care, but Ben admitted that the thought of his father gave him extra motivation on the final afternoon.
“I always wear this shirt with most amount of pride I possibly can,” he said. “But there was a bit more there this week. I always had my dad in the back of my mind. I hope I’ve made him proud.”
The dramatic finish to the second Test – England only completed victory with 8.2 overs to spare – comes at a time when the International Cricket Council is considering reducing the longest form of the game to four days.
Before this Test, Root said that there could be “a place” for four-day Tests, either across the board or mixed in with five-day matches.
However, both he and Stokes spoke of the merits of five-day cricket in the aftermath of the series-levelling victory.
“Today has shown why it should be five days,” said Stokes.
Root added: “What a great win that was. A great five days of cricket. You wouldn’t see it if it was a four-day game, would you? It’s a great advert for five-day Test matches.”