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The Independent UK
The Independent UK
Tom White

Captain fantastic? Ben Stokes makes impressive start as England skipper


Ben Stokes has the best record after 10 Tests of any England captain since 1930.

England have won eight of their nine Tests since the summer’s appointment of coach Brendon McCullum and Stokes, who previously stepped in as skipper for a loss to the West Indies two years ago.

Not since Percy Chapman won his first nine Tests more than 90 years ago has a captain made a better start and, here, the PA news agency looks at how Stokes’ record compares to his predecessors.

Stokes starts strong

Stokes got his first taste of Test captaincy as cricket returned from the Covid-19 shutdown in July 2020, with Joe Root absent to attend the birth of his child.

Jermaine Blackwood led the Windies to a four-wicket win but the first signs were there of Stokes’ willingness to take eye-catching and aggressive decisions, including the omission of Stuart Broad.

Given the chance to put his own stamp on the team in tandem with former New Zealand captain McCullum, Stokes has inspired his side to a series of thrilling wins.

They chased down targets of 277, 299 and 296 to win their first series 3-0 against the Black Caps, immediately making them the first team in history to chase over 250 to win three successive Tests – and extended that run to four in the delayed fifth Test against India, where their chase of 378 was an England record and the eighth-highest of all time.

An innings defeat to South Africa was a rare mis-step but they responded in kind before a series-clinching nine-wicket win in the third Test.

They have also won their first two overseas Tests in Pakistan, have scored their runs at more than 4.75 per over since Stokes took permanent charge and have bowled out their opposition in all 17 innings in that time.

Chasing Chapman

Stokes is already just the 18th man to win eight Tests as England captain, with only 11 having gone on to reach double figures.

Curiously absent from the latter group is Chapman, despite the perfect start to his reign.

Taking over during the 1926 Ashes after Arthur Carr suffered tonsillitis, Chapman led England to a 289-run win at the Oval before a 3-0 series triumph over the West Indies in the summer of 1928 and a 4-0 Ashes success Down Under that winter.

Victory in the first Test of the return series at Trent Bridge in 1930 was his ninth and last as captain. Australia won the second Test at Lord’s and though two draws saw England retain the urn, four more in South Africa were not enough to stave off a 1-0 loss in the five-match series. It was Chapman’s last as skipper as he finished with a record of nine wins, two defeats and six draws.

Should England win the third Test against Pakistan, Stokes’ record since taking permanent charge will match Chapman’s 9-1 start, while a first draw of his reign would bring him alongside Johnny Douglas.

Douglas’ side won the 1911-12 Ashes 4-1 in Australia and their five-match series in South Africa 4-0 in the winter of 1913-14, with a draw in Durban. He remained in charge after the first World War but lost seven Tests in a row before a draw with South Africa at Old Trafford left him with an 8-8-2 record from 18 Tests.

No other England captain prior to Stokes has won more than seven of his first 10 Tests. Colin Cowdrey, Ray Illingworth and Mike Brearley were all unbeaten at that stage, but each with five wins and five draws.

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