BEN Stokes is refusing to consider an England recall despite recording career-best figures for Durham yesterday.
As England’s bowlers toiled against Sri Lanka at Headingley yesterday, to stand on brink of a series defeat, Stokes took 7-67 to put Durham on course for a second successive LV= County Championship win, while Sussex’s slide into relegation trouble looks set to continue.
Sussex collapsed from 56 without loss to 205 all out, despite an unbeaten 66 from Luke Wright, then saw Keaton Jennings put an indifferent run of form behind him. He reached 46 not out as Durham stretched their lead to 237 with nine wickets standing.
Although Stokes (right) took 6-99 for England at Sydney in the winter, his only previous five-wicket haul in the championship was 6-68 against Hampshire at the Rose Bowl three years ago.
Stokes was happy with his day’s work but is not looking to England selection just yet.
He said: “I’ve had a bit of a tough time with the ball since coming back, but today everything clicked. I felt in a really good rhythm and the ball was swinging. When we changed the ball we got a good one which kept its shine well.
“I knew it was a career-best but the main thing is always how the team is doing. If the England selectors want to pick me for the India series that would be great, but I’m trying not to think about that. My focus is to put in good performances for Durham.”
After not being considered ready for England duty following his self-inflicted broken wrist, this is Stokes’ third game back.
National selector James Whitaker watched him in last week’s win against Lancashire when his five wickets in the match all resulted from poor strokes and he conceded runs at five an over.
Whitaker was not present today to see a vastly-improved display in which Stokes took 4-10 in his first six overs through swing and steep bounce.
A change of ball again seemed to have an influence, just as it did in Durham’s first innings. That came after 31 overs and this time it happened after 17, just before Stokes came on.
Amazingly, both openers fell to slip catches via the wicketkeeper’s gloves as five wickets went down for 23 in 12 overs.
Luke Wells nicked Stokes’ fifth ball and Phil Mustard parried it to Scott Borthwick at second slip.
Paul Coughlin came on at the other end and after opening with a maiden he was twice driven to the cover boundary by Chris Nash, who then fended at a short one and edged above Mustard’s head.
The wicketkeeper knocked the ball upwards and Paul Collingwood completed the catch at first slip.
As the edges kept coming, Mustard hung on to four catches and there was another one for Borthwick, while the other three were bowled by Stokes.
He went round the wicket to left-hander Joyce, who played round a fast swinger and lost his off stump.
Ben Brown may have been unlucky as a steeply-rising ball brushed him on the way to Mustard. The batsman indicated it had hit his shoulder, but he was given out.
The slide to 79 for five was arrested by Steffan Piolet contributing 25 to a stand of 54 with Wright before Stokes knocked back his off stump.
After a 14-over spell spanning lunch he was rested and John Hastings picked up two wickets before Stokes was recalled and saw Wright top-edge a pull over the wicketkeeper for his eighth four to reach 50 off 79 balls.
After Jon Lewis edged to Mustard, last man Lewis Hatchett played on.
With a full session to bat, Durham made a flying start then dropped anchor after losing Mark Stoneman, caught at second slip by Tredwell for 22, with the total on 35 in the sixth over.
In the remaining two hours, Borthwick made an unbeaten 22.