Sir Ian Botham described Ben Stokes as “box office” after seeing his record for England’s fastest double-ton extinguished in front of his very own eyes in Cape Town.
Stokes blasted a maiden double-century from just 163 deliveries on day two of the second Test versus South Africa, beating Botham’s 220-ball effort set against India at the Oval 34 years ago.
That was the second fastest double-hundred in Test history, 10 balls more than Nathan Astle’s record, and the highest score by an England number six.
Botham, summarising for Sky Sports, said: “It was magnificent, one of the best examples of Test cricket I’ve seen in a long time.
“Ben Stokes is box office. We knew he’d got it, and this is the tip of the iceberg. He’ll get it wrong once in a while but he is a guy that wins matches, and they don’t come along very often.
“(You feel like) you’re just king of the castle. No boundary’s big enough, no bowler’s quick enough, it really is a moment to enjoy.”
Stokes went on to smash 30 fours and 11 sixes, an England record for maximums, in an astonishing 198-ball 258, sharing a world-record sixth-wicket stand of 399 with unbeaten centurion Jonny Bairstow.
The 24-year-old’s innings ended in comical fashion when AB de Villiers dropped a skier at mid-off but then threw down the stumps to run out Stokes who did not attempt a single as he was anticipating the catch would be taken.
But Botham added on commentary: “Make it last forever, remember every step. They will be seeing this all over the place, if not today for the next few days. Absolutely magnificent.”
Former England coach David Lloyd, Botham’s Sky Sports colleague, was also at Newlands to see Stokes’ blitz.
“He’s natural,” Lloyd told Sky Sports News. “He just goes out there – ‘see ball, hit ball’.
“Sometimes they’re very correct, they dress nicely and they’re very neat and tidy – this guy’s a mongrel and he’ll take them to the cleaners.”
That’s a morning they will never forget…. pic.twitter.com/rMNQtVSfx8
— Jonathan Agnew (@Aggerscricket) January 3, 2016
Stokes continued to cut loose after reaching his double-century, leaving ex-England captain Nasser Hussain scratching his head as to where you could bowl to him.
“If you tried to analyse it, where do you bowl to him? If you pitch it up, you get smashed back over your head or along the ground, those trademark punches down the ground,” he said.
“If you bowl it back of a length, he smashes it over square-leg. He plays spin well. Technically there is not a lot wrong. There is no area you can bowl to him.”
Jonathan Agnew, commentating for BBC Test Match Special, described it as “an innings no one here will ever forget. Absolutely astonishing.”
His co-commentator, former England opener Geoffrey Boycott, added: “All those thousands of England supporters who’ve come out here for a bit of a holiday, a bit of sunshine, see some cricket – you’ve seen something special.”
250 – @benstokes38 posted fastest 250 in a Test innings (196 balls); previous best Sehwag in 09 (207). Fireworks. pic.twitter.com/2uto66ZEtg
— OptaJim (@OptaJim) January 3, 2016