Ben Stokes is the toast of English cricket - but where did it all begin?

Stokes produced one of the great all-round displays against New Zealand

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The Independent Online

Ben Stokes’ performance in the first Test match against New Zealand was a breath of fresh air for English cricket.

His belligerent 92 in the first innings was followed by the fastest ever century at Lord’s as he finished on 101 from just 92 balls in an innings which included 15 fours and 2 sixes. The man of the match inspired England to victory on the final day with the ball, dismissing Kane Williamson and Brendon McCullum.

New Zealand-born, his father Gerard brought him to England at the age of 12 when he was appointed Head Coach at Workington Town rugby league football club - Stokes grew up in the West Cumbrian town of Cockermouth.

It was at Cockermouth Cricket Club that Stokes’ potential as a cricketer became evident. In 2006 at age 15 he played a pivotal role in the Premier Division Title of the North Lancashire & Cumbria Cricket League and in the same year he signed on with Durham's academy.

His first-team debut for Durham came in 2009, as a 17-year-old, against Surrey at The Oval in the Friends Provident Trophy, in which his third delivery in professional cricket resulted in the wicket of former England batsman Mark Ramprakash. 

His talent was on show at the Under-19 World Cup in 2010, scoring a hundred against India and his consistent performances for Durham propelled him into the England ODI team for a one-off match against Ireland in August 2011.

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Stokes on his way to a century in the Third Ashes Test in Perth in 2013

Stokes continued to impress for Durham with both bat and ball in 2012 and his progression saw him selected in the England Lions Development Squad for the tour of Australia. However, his tour ended early when he was sent home along with Kent seamer Matt Coles, for repeated breaches of discipline and unprofessional conduct.

Stokes has not been one to shy away from controversy. He missed the 2014 World Twenty20 due to a hand injury after punching a dressing room locker in the West Indies.

Stokes played an influential role in Durham’s triumphant County Championship campaign in 2013, scoring 615 runs and taking 42 wickets at an average of 26.57, recognised with a spot in the ODI squad against Australia that summer. His five wickets in the final match at The Ageas Bowl, and useful runs throughout the series, suggested that this was a player who could partake in all forms of the game if his talents could be properly harnessed.

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Stokes missed the Twenty20 World Cup after punching a locker and breaking his hand

From here he was included in the 17-man squad for the 2013-14 Ashes which, despite England’s embarrassing 5-0 defeat, Stokes was the only shining light to come out of the tour when he scored 120 in Perth in his second appearance.

Looking back on the recent World Cup in Australia it seems farcical that Stokes was not picked in the squad, however a disastrous run of form in England last summer left the selectors in no position but to leave out the all-rounder.

Instead, Stokes represented the Melbourne Renegades in the Australian Big Bash T20 and in his first game scored 77 off 37 balls against the Hobart Hurricanes.

He has returned to an England shirt with an explosive start to the summer, and one which hopefully will continue when the Australians arrive in July.

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