Ashes Betting: Ben Stokes gives England a glimmer of hope

Ben Stokes was inspirational at Lord's
Ben Stokes was inspirational at Lord's

After Ben Stokes inspired England to a superb victory over New Zealand at Lord's, Ralph Ellis sees shades of a certain IT Botham in the Durham man and ponders whether Alastair Cook's men can now seriously challenge for the Ashes later this summer...

"Lord’s has shown that England do have a team that can stand up and compete, that can dig in and fight when they need to, and that can turn a Test match round when it is going against them. Yesterday might just be the turning point – the day England became a top team again."

I've never agreed with this idea that you can't become a bad team overnight - form is temporary and class is permanent, and all those sort of things. There are too many occasions when a top side has suddenly fallen to pieces.

The question for England cricket fans today is rather the opposite, though. Can you become a good side overnight?

After an abysmal Ashes winter, followed by an even worse World Cup winter, topped off by a miserably poor tour to the West Indies, it seemed Alastair Cook and co were going nowhere in a huge hurry. Five days at Lord's later and the picture is astonishingly different.

When Moeen Ali clung on to that catch on the boundary ropes last night it felt a bit like Headingley in 1981. And there, playing the Ian Botham role, was the remarkable figure of Ben Stokes.

Back in those days Botham was the talisman. I had the good fortune to ghost his first book, a coaching manual for kids, and he was - and come to that still is - as inspiring a character off the field as he was on it.

There was a night when myself and Mrs Ellis went with him to a charity skittles night at a pub deep in the heart of the West Country. A couple of the other players didn't turn up, so we found ourselves playing for Somerset - also alongside Viv Richards and Joel Garner - against the locals. We'd never skittled in our lives, but Botham gave us lessons and then convinced us we were champions.

It strikes me that Stokes has the same sort of total confidence in what he's doing, as well as the same ability to conjure up remarkable, match changing moments and inspire others to do the same. As if his 85-ball century on Sunday wasn't enough, the ball that got rid of Brendan McCullum first ball yesterday to strike the hugest of psychological blows against New Zealand was absolute class.

In fact if Shane Warne came up with the Ball of the 20th Century, there's a good argument that Stokes might have bowled the Ball of the 21st Century so far. I'm not sure any batsman could have coped with that as it swung in late and bounced. It was simply unplayable.

So, back to the original question, have England gone from rubbish to good overnight? And if so is it worth backing them at the current price of 4.84/1 to win the Ashes?

First things first, they are now 1.364/11 to wrap up the two-match New Zealand series by avoiding defeat when the second Test starts at Headingley on Friday. Do that, and they can face the Australians with a good deal more confidence.

It needs Ian Bell to rediscover his form. It needs Adam Lyth to bring some of his Yorkshire form to see off the new ball. It needs Mark Wood to build on his promising debut by bowling at 90mph plus more often.

But Lord's has shown that England do have a team that can stand up and compete, that can dig in and fight when they need to, and that can turn a Test match round when it is going against them. Yesterday might just be the turning point - the day England became a top team again.

Pretty much overnight.

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Ben Stokes has got Ralph and everyone else very excited, but our regular cricket correspondent Ed Hawkins has issued a note of caution...

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