Ben Stokes proved why he’s the ‘million-dollar man’ with an Indian Premier League pricetag of AUD$2.8 million on Monday when he blasted one of the tournament’s most memorable centuries.
Returning for Rising Pune Supergiant after suffering a grade-one muscle tear in his right shoulder while bowling against Mumbai late last month, Stokes showed no signs of being held back by the injury when he blasted an unbeaten 103 from 63 deliveries.
Quick single: Super Stokes seals match-winning ton
More impressively, his innings came under extreme pressure, with Pune in trouble at 3-10 in the second over in pursuit of 162, with Ajinkya Rahane (4), Manoj Tiwary (0) and Steve Smith (4) already back in the dugout.
The England allrounder’s knock featured seven fours and six sixes, and earned him a spot in history as only the third player to score a century at No.5 in the IPL.
It’s a feat that’s never been achieved in a Twenty20 International, while Rajasthan Royals’ Yusuf Pathan (100 v Mumbai Indians, 2010) and Kings XI Punjab’s David Miller (101no v Royal Challengers, 2013) are the only other players to have scored tons in the position in the IPL.
Stokes also became the first Englishman to score a century in the IPL since Kevin Pietersen in 2012, who compiled an identical unbeaten score for the Delhi Daredevils against the Deccan Chargers.
Speaking after the match, Stokes said his partnerships with MS Dhoni (26) and Dan Christan (17no) had been crucial.
“We lost quite a few early wickets, that start didn't help us, but me and MS (Dhoni) were just trying to tick along and get something going, and then try and capitalise in the end,” Stokes told Sky Sports.
“We took it like a numbers game, over by over, realised what we got, tried to go big at the start of the over and if we got there we tried to cool off. It worked – one of the good days.
“It's always nice, personal accolades, but we're on a roll as a team and if we keep winning these tight games hopefully we can get through to the final.”
Stokes did suffer one hiccup on his way to three figures, struck by severe cramp in his calf on 98.
"It was just cramp in the calves, just one of those things, I get it quite a lot,” he explained.
“My legs aren't feeling the best but they will be alright in the morning."
Stokes’ heroics earned him praise from around the globe, with teammates and IPL rivals alike quick to congratulate the England vice-captain.
“That’s as good an innings as you’ll see in tweny20 cricket,” Christian said after the match.
“It was just fantastic for Ben and for us as well.”