Ben Stokes enjoyed himself as he smashed 34 runs in an over during a record-breaking 161 from 88 balls for Durham on Friday – his first innings since being appointed as England Test captain.
The big-hitting all-rounder, who was announced as Joe Root’s successor last week, went to a hundred off just 64 balls to post Durham’s quickest first-class century, while the 17 sixes he hit represented a new record for the English County Championship since it officially started in 1890.
Stokes is making his first appearance in this season’s Championship after a knee injury on the tour of the West Indies, where England were beaten 1-0 in a three-Test series.
He walked to the crease with Durham on 360 for four on the second morning of their four-day match against Worcestershire and launched a boundary barrage.
“It was good fun,” said Stokes at close of play while playing down the achievement.
“I think the game got set up very nicely by our top five. I just had to play the situation and then, once we got our last batting point, it was about trying to get as many runs as we could.
“There are records you don’t know and people bring them up. You don’t play the game for stuff like that.”
Left-handed batsman Stokes took just 47 balls to reach his half-century but then went into overdrive, with his second 50 taking just 17 deliveries.
Teenage slow left-armer Josh Baker was on the receiving end of heavy punishment from Stokes.
The first five deliveries of Baker’s 20th over were muscled over the boundary rope by Stokes, who raised his bat after the fifth to celebrate reaching three figures, having clubbed 10 sixes in total.
Stokes was one blow away from emulating West Indies great Garfield Sobers, the only batsman in Championship history to hit six sixes in an over, having done so for Nottinghamshire in 1968.
But he was ultimately left thumping his pads with his bat in frustration after merely hitting a four, sparing Baker from joining ex-Glamorgan seamer Malcolm Nash in an undesirable club.
“I knew as I hit the final delivery that it didn’t quite have the legs!” said Stokes.
Baker was taken out of the attack, but Stokes said he hoped the Worcestershire bowler would recover, just as the England star had done after being hit for four sixes in successive balls by Carlos Brathwaite in the last over of West Indies’ World T20 final win in Kolkata six years ago.
“Hopefully he can use the experience,” said Stokes.
“I know Richo (Alan Richardson, Worcestershire bowling coach) quite well so I’m sure he will get around him and make sure it doesn’t knock his confidence.”
Stokes went to lunch on 147 not out from 82 balls, including 15 sixes.
His freewheeling batting continued with the first ball after the resumption, with Stokes smashing his 16th six.
He then hammered his 17th – breaking the previous county record held jointly by Andrew Symonds, the former Australia all-rounder, and Graham Napier – by lofting Brett D’Oliveira’s leg spin straight down the ground.
Stokes eventually holed out to deep midwicket in D’Oliveira’s next over before Durham declared on 580 for six shortly afterwards.
He then took none for 13 in nine overs as Durham reduced Worcestershire to 169 for six in this Second Division clash.
The 30-year-old is due to start his England reign in the first Test against New Zealand at Lord’s from June 2.