Stokes, who was announced as Joe Root’s successor last week, reached three figures from just 64 balls for Durham’s fastest first-class century and his 17 sixes is a new benchmark in English county cricket. This was Stokes’ first appearance of the County Championship season following a knee injury he aggravated during the West Indies tour in March and he made a lasting impression.
The 30-year-old walked to the crease with Durham in the ascendancy on 360 for four on the second morning of their Division Two clash and further strengthened their position with a boundary barrage. The left-hander took just 47 balls to reach his half-century but went into overdrive thereafter as his second 50 took only 17 deliveries, with teenage slow left-armer Josh Baker coming in for punishment.
The first five balls of Baker’s 20th over were muscled over the boundary rope by Stokes, whose fifth six took him to a century, shattering the Durham record for the quickest first-class ton as former team-mate Paul Collingwood’s 75-ball knock against Somerset in 2005 was put in the shade.
The last ball of the over ‘only’ went for a four meaning Stokes was one blow away from emulating Sir Garfield Sobers, the only batter in championship history to hit six sixes in an over, having done so for Nottinghamshire in 1968.
Stokes thumped his pads with his bat in despair when yet another clean strike bounced just short of the long-on boundary, sparing Baker from joining ex-Glamorgan seamer Malcolm Nash in an undesirable club.
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