Ben Stokes was the man who made the difference in the final scoreline of the just-concluded ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 in England. Stokes undying spirit and never-say-die attitude helped hosts England to lift their maiden world title at the ‘Home of Cricket’ – Lord’s on July 12. Former Australia captain Ricky Ponting feels a “matured” Stokes will be the key in the upcoming Ashes series, beginning on August 1. “It seems like he’s playing with a lot of maturity,” Ponting told cricket.com.au. “He doesn’t seem like he’s in much of a rush now as he might have been.

“The thing about his personality as well, he’s a big, strong, brash guy with a bit of an ego … and I think as a younger person probably everything was flat out — one speed.

“To me, (during the World Cup) it seems like he (was) able to understand situations and play situations accordingly. That’s a bit of maturity and understanding his own game and understanding what his team needs him to do.”

Stokes, who was the Player of the Match in the final of the World Cup which England won for the first time. He had a World Cup to remember especially with the bat where he scored important runs for Eoin Morgan’s England.

“He’s a very, very good player,” he said. “Some of the innings I’ve seen him play in Test cricket have been as good a ball-striking innings as we’ve seen from the best batsman in the world.

“He can back it up with the ball and if he’s not one of the best fielders in the world at the moment, I’ll be very surprised,” Ponting said.

The dynamic England all-rounder did not play the 2017-18 Ashes in Australia due to his ongoing involvement in a court case following a street fight in Bristol. Since making a return, Stokes is yet to score a century or take a five-wicket haul in 13 matches.

Ponting though, said Stokes can be the ‘heartbeat’ of the England team like Andrew Flintoff was previously.

“He’s a key man and more a key man because I think he’s that real heartbeat for their team, a bit like ‘Freddie’ Flintoff in Ashes series gone by — whenever they were in trouble and they needed something, they tend to go to those sort of guys, and Australia need to keep him quiet if we’re going to win the series.

“I think it’s important that the Australian players don’t let him find (form) early in the series. There are certain players you know that you’ve just got to hopefully get on top early — Stokes is one that I think they need to — make sure that he doesn’t get away from (them) – and he doesn’t have much of an impact on the series.

“His Test record hasn’t been great of late, he’ll know that, he’ll understand that and it’s up to the Aussie boys to make sure that they don’t let him dominate the series.”

(With Agency Inputs)