Captain Alastair Cook said that Durham’s Ben Stokes has the “x-factor” after he helped England to a First Test victory over Bangladesh.
Bangladesh started the final morning needing just 33 runs for a maiden Test triumph over England, who required only two wickets to maintain their 100 per cent winning record over the Tigers in the longest format.
It was the tourists who came out on top, claiming victory by 22 runs, after man-of-the-match Ben Stokes trapped both Taijul Islam and Shafiul Islam in front within the space of three deliveries.
Stokes found some reverse swing which helped him finish with four for 26 before he displayed great maturity with 85 from 151 deliveries to steer England out of trouble and to a testing target.
The all-rounder proved with that innings he can thrive on turning wickets - while he has also registered his maiden one-day hundred on this tour - and it was fitting that he was the one to clinch a thrilling victory for England.
Cook said: “I say it every single time we speak about him, the guy is that x-factor cricketer which every side would love to have. He balances our side, he gives us options.
“The one thing he has done over the last year is improve his method against spin.
“I don’t want to say I’m surprised but it surprised me how well he scored that hundred (in the ODI series), it just showed what a lot of hard work can do and he can take a lot of credit for that.”
Cook had little doubt England would prevail over Bangladesh despite a tense end in Chittagong that could have seen either side walk away with victory.
Cook revealed he was in an upbeat mood beforehand, which was vindicated as England drew first blood after 21 balls and 19 minutes on Monday morning to end an engrossing Test match where momentum changed hands several times.
He said: “I was fairly confident this morning, if I’m brutally honest.
“I thought we’d create the chances, the doubt was whether we were good enough to take those chances.
“They might (have been) half chances. But I thought we’d create enough to win the game so I was fairly relaxed.
“I did genuinely think 280 was going to be enough, I didn’t think it would get as close as that and the way they played spin in particular was very impressive.
“It was a brilliant Test. I certainly didn’t think after the first session that it would go to day five. It ebbed and flowed.”
England were firmly on the back foot after that opening session, during which they were reduced to 21 for three on a pitch that offered turn from the get go.
However, they had a 45-run first-innings lead after Bangladesh collapsed to 248 all out, having been 221 for four at one stage, which Cook believes proved critical to the outcome.
He said: “The crucial moment was probably the beginning of day three when they were 70 or 80 behind with five wickets in hand and we managed to get a lead. That was the crucial difference.”
England are back in action in just four days’ time in Dhaka for the second and final Test and Cook has admitted there are likely to be changes to the side.
He is mindful of the five-Test series against India that follows immediately after this tour, saying: “I’m pretty sure there will be some changes, just due to what we have coming up.
“If we play the same side a lot in the tour, we could have a lot of guys with not much cricket under their belts coming into a crucial Test match a bit further down the line.
“We were pretty clear when we came out that we would rotate, so I’d imagine there might be a couple of changes.”
Stokes, though, is adamant he does not need to be rested over the next few weeks, adding: “Nah, I’ll play all seven if I still get picked, I’d rather get dropped.”
Bangladesh captain Mushfiqur Rahim took some satisfaction from pushing England close as the Tigers fell agonisingly short of what would have been their finest Test win in their first match in the format in nearly 15 months.
The Tigers would have claimed only their eighth Test victory from 94 matches had they eked out the remaining runs but it was not to be.
Mushfiqur said: “Nobody expected Bangladesh to play in this manner after 15 months so we had to prove that we could do something.
“We could show our character to a side like England. They have a lot of experienced players. I wouldn’t (say the defeat was) frustrating but I would call it a learning experience. It was a good Test for Bangladesh.”