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Stokes stands by Archer after hitting terrific ton



Ben Stokes

Ben Stokes

Getty Images for ECB

Ben Stokes

Ben Stokes took a leading role for England on and off the pitch on day two of the second Test against the West Indies, hitting a fine 176 then offering his support for team-mate Jofra Archer.

Stokes' 10th Test century was further evidence of his maturity in the middle, a perfectly-paced knock that saw him grind down the tourists alongside the stoic Dom Sibley, who made 120, before opening up after reaching three figures.

It allowed England to declare on 469 for nine, and left just enough time for Sam Curran to prise out John Campbell before the close, but he also spoke in impressively measured tones about Archer's ongoing travails.

The paceman has spent the last two days isolating in his on-site hotel room at Old Trafford after an unauthorised trip to Brighton breached the team's bio-secure bubble and faces further disciplinary action.

Archer's lapse, which only came to light late on the eve of the match, caused disbelief and frustration in the England camp but Stokes insisted he now needed support from his team-mates.

"We really need to be there to support Jofra right now," was his instant reaction to Archer's period of solitude. "Obviously he's a big talking point and he is by himself because of everything else going on at the moment.

"It's making sure that it doesn't feel like he's by himself. The worst thing we could do right now as a team is just leave him and see him in six days.

"It's all good being there for people when things are going well and smoothly but what really comes through is how you operate when they need you most."

Stokes made no reference to the difficulties he has experienced in his own career, which include missing an entire Ashes tour while an ultimately discarded charge of affray hung over him, but he knows better than most what it feels like to be at the eye of a storm.

"At times like this people are very, very tough and you can feel like you are by yourself, but I don't think anybody is going to allow that to happen," he said.

"Jofra's a massive part of this group, as everybody is. If it was anybody else bar Jofra it would be the same."

Stokes was speaking after his second highest score in England colours, an outstanding all-round batting display that included 17 fours and two sixes but also long periods of deep concentration.

He and Sibley added 260 for the fourth wicket, well over half the team's total runs, but he took his share of the work in his stride.

"Numbers, figures... I don't really care. The main number for me is how many wins," he said.

"I was more buzzing that I faced 300 balls than I was when I got to my hundred, that's something I never thought I'd be capable of doing. The more time you spend in the middle the more chance you've got to get runs.

"Being an instinctive player is great but there's been times in the past where I've let how I'm playing at the time affect me, thinking I can play some big shots and I'd be alright.

"I feel at an age and an experience level where I really understand my game pretty much all the time and I try not to get carried away."

Belfast Telegraph