Stokes looking to smash it!

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Dressed in a sleeveless top, with his biceps bulging and the tattoos on his upper arms glistening with sweat, he had a member of the coaching staff and teammate Joe Root throw balls at him on a strip on the side of the Wanderers square, and then he smashed them - the balls that is.

If a ball was pitched up to him Stokes smashed - drop a little short, smash, occasionally he skipped a few steps down the pitch and smash. A ball on his legs, smash, outside off, smash. It made for one hell of a racket, with the sound of the ball echoing off the bat in a mostly empty stadium. It wasn’t immediately clear but judging by the noise a few seats in the Unity Stand may be broken - on the ground level, and the one above that. One ball cleared the dressing room. That worried Stokes for a while because it may have flown a little too close to some teammates.

But otherwise it was loads of fun.

It should be fun this evening too although there’ll be more seriousness attached on account of it being the fourth one-day international between Stokes and his fellow Englishmen against South Africa.

In the three previous years South Africa have arrived at the ‘Bullring’ for what is now known as the ‘Pink’ ODI in a very relaxed frame of mind. The series has either been decided or was already heavily in their favour, something that is most definitely not the case now.

England leads the series having applied their own new thunderous batting strategy of which Stokes and Root are such important components.

England notched up 399 in Bloemfontein in the first match, then comfortably chased down 263 in the second in Port Elizabeth and made 318 in Centurion on Tuesday. They lost that last match, but as regards to their long-term growth as a one-day side, it was in keeping with a new philosophy created after the disastrous World Cup exit a year ago.

Tuesday was the ninth time they’d surpassed a total of 300 since the World Cup. It is a world away from the conservative strategy employed for so long. It’s probably taken South Africa, who haven’t faced England in more than three years, a while to adjust to this new version of a team still captained by Eoin Morgan, but whose style is very much in keeping with their Australian coach Trevor Bayliss’s more modern outlook.

The players have lapped it up, and though Root and Stokes will be feeling the effects of what has been a demanding tour for them, the prospect of beating South Africa, especially on the most colourful occasion on the domestic cricket calendar, is too enticing to miss. Especially if that victory can be attained playing in this new and more liberated way.

Stokes has been magnificent throughout. He announced himself to the world as part of England’s desperate Ashes challenge Down Under two years ago, but on this trip he has established himself as the pre-eminent all-rounder in the game. He has made South Africa miss Jacques Kallis probably more than they ever imagined possible.

He scored 411 runs including that remarkable double-hundred in the New Year’s Test and also picked up 12 wickets bowling intimidatingly fast in the four match Test series. In the three ODIs played so far, he’s made two half-centuries, picked up two wickets and snatched one of the greatest catches ever seen in this country to dismiss AB de Villiers in Bloemfontein.

If today goes anything like the rest of this tour has for Stokes, he’ll have a major impact on this game’s outcome. On thing we do know, he'll give it a smash. – The Star

Original source: Stokes looking to smash it!

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