Indian Premier League 2017
Last-over attack exposes Stokes doubts
Focusing on Ben Stokes’ bowling is the key to limiting his IPL influence, cricket legend says
12 April 2017, 09:47 PM AEST
Multi-million-dollar man Ben Stokes has made a solid start to his maiden Indian Premier League campaign, but he has again copped the brunt of a free-flowing allrounder in the last over of a T20 innings.
Stokes was hammered for 23 by South African Chris Morris in a loss to Delhi on Tuesday night, bringing back memories of the World T20 final last year when West Indian Carlos Brathwaite hit him for four consecutive sixes as the Windies stole the title.
The right-armer had started the match strongly, conceding just 18 from his first three overs, but the late fireworks from Morris saw his figures blow out to 0-41.
The left-hander then managed just two from five deliveries with the bat before he was dismissed by Australian paceman Pat Cummins.
Stokes was purchased for an IPL record fee of AUD $2.8m by the Rising Pune Supergiant and had made a solid start to the tournament, posting scores of 21 and 50 at a strike rate of more than 150 and – apart from his final over against Delhi – has leaked less than eight runs an over with the ball.
The aggressive batting from Morris, while unsurprising in the final over of the innings, was the realisation of a pre-tournament prediction from former Aussie captain Ricky Ponting, who told cricket.com.au last week that targeting Stokes with the ball could be the secret to limiting his devastating all-round impact.
"The first thing I'd do (as an opposition coach) is try and get on top of him with the ball," Ponting said.
"When he's bowling, I'd have batters make sure they're ultra-aggressive against him early on. Because if there are any of those doubts and those thoughts in the back of his mind about maybe not being able to execute under pressure, then you need to be able to get on top of that really early.
"To me he looks like the sort of player that if he gets off to a good start then he'll probably have a really good game.
"But if he gets attacked early on or under pressure early on, that's when the game becomes really difficult.
"But his ball striking is outstanding ... I wouldn't be too worried about him as far as his batting goes, but I'd certainly try and get on top of his bowling."
While the allrounder's overall record in T20 cricket undersells his undoubted talent, Ponting believes that stems from juggling the difficult tasks of batting and bowling late in the innings, like he has in the tournament so far.
"I'm sure (Pune) weren't looking too much at his record because it is quite a tough game when you're batting down the order and he's probably bowling all the difficult overs as well," Ponting said.
"He's bowling the overs at the end like we saw in that World Cup final. So your actual numbers don't look that good, but if that's what your team needs to have someone like that to fit in, that's what you do."
And Ponting, who coached the Mumbai Indians to the IPL title in 2015, said what he is being paid this season shouldn't put any added pressure on Stokes.
"I'm not sure if the price tag puts any more pressure on him," he added. "There's pressure on every IPL player.
"I'm sure he's thinking about the money because he's got a lot more than anyone else has in an IPL auction, but it'll be about how he handles the pressure of the tournament.
"And we've seen at different times he probably hasn't handled the pressure that well.
"He's an exceptionally talented allrounder and RPS will be expecting a lot of him, no doubt."
Stokes hasn't shied away from discussing his performance in the WT20 final and says his growing maturity in international cricket – he already has four Test centuries and three five-wicket hauls to his name – means he quickly moved on from the match.
"A few years ago, I would have really tortured myself about that final over," Stokes told The Times last year.
"I used to find it so hard to let go, but I'm a lot better now.
"Immediately after the game I went through it a bit, thinking 'what if', but then I realised it wasn't doing me any good.
"You can never beat your own mind when it plays tricks on you.
"My training was based around bowling yorkers at the end of the innings ... I was confident of nailing my yorkers.
"I just didn't get it right."
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2017-18 International Fixtures:
Men's Ashes Series
First Test Gabba, November 23-27
Second Test Adelaide Oval, December 2-6 (Day-Night)
Third Test Perth TBC, December 14-18
Fourth Test MCG, December 26-30
Fifth Test SCG, January 4-8 (Pink Test)
ODI Series v England
First ODI MCG, January 14
Second ODI Gabba, January 19
Third ODI SCG, January 21
Fourth ODI Adelaide Oval, January 26
Fifth ODI Perth TBC, January 28
Prime Minister's XI
PM's XI v England Manuka Oval, February 2
T20 trans-Tasman Tri-Series
First T20I Australia v NZ, SCG, February 3
Second T20I – Australia v England, Blundstone Arena, February 7
Third T20I – Australia v England, MCG, February 10
Fourth T20I – NZ v England, Wellington, February 14
Fifth T20I – NZ v Australia, Eden Park, February 16
Sixth T20I – NZ v England, Seddon Park, February 18
Final – TBC, Eden Park, February 21