England's Ben Stokes up some fire in the Ashes

RICHARD KNOWLER
Last updated 05:00 20/12/2013
Ben Stokes

GO TEAM: A young Ben Stokes shows his support for the Warriors at Westpac Stadium.

Ben Stokes
Getty Images
STERN RESISTANCE: Ben Stokes of England bats during day four of the third Ashes test.

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Gerard Stokes has spoken with pride about how son Ben confronted his personal problems before slapping around the Aussie bowlers in Perth.

England may have had a rotten Ashes series but Christchurch-born Ben Stokes, 22, at least gave their supporters something to hoot about when he scored 120 runs in the third test at the WACA ground this week.

Gerard, a former professional rugby league coach now working for the Corrections Department in Christchurch, believed Ben's tenacious innings was a by-product of his decision to curtail his off-field antics.

Last summer, Matt Coles and Stokes, who was born and raised in New Zealand until he moved to England with his parents when he was 12, were sent home from the England A tour of Australia because of persistent late-night drinking.

"He has shown so much maturity over the last year," Gerard said.

"He had a bit of a bad patch and he dug himself out of that, worked really hard.

"The most pleasing thing is he not only made sure he worked through his issues but re-paid the faith in the people that stuck by him - those from the ECB and all the friends that have supported him."

Gerard and Deb Stokes try to keep in touch with their son daily and plan to meet with him, his partner, Clare, and baby Layton when they travel to Melbourne for the Boxing Day test.

A former Canterbury Bulls and Wellington Orcas coach, Gerard Stokes, who also played for the Kiwis, moved his family to England in 2003 to coach Workington until 2007. He later guided Whitehaven for two years before he and Deb returned to New Zealand.

Gerard had a frank chat with Ben about why he was expelled from the England A tour and how he could earn the trust of those who mattered most.

"We had a good discussion about it - we are very open and have a good relationship. He is a man, basically, so the decisions he was making were bad ones. And he realised that," Gerard added. "He has always been a good kid but he has always had his own mind as well.

"In his own mind he wasn't doing anything out of the ordinary for him - but he was because he was going against the rules of the team at the time."

Although born and raised in New Zealand, Ben now speaks with a strong northern English accent and Gerard reckons he sounds more "Geordie" than the locals.

Ben played junior cricket for Merivale-Papanui and when the family moved to the capital he was selected for Wellington age-group sides. Also an accomplished stand-off and goalkicker, Ben represented various Canterbury and South Island rugby league age-group sides.

In the Old Dart, he was selected for a northern England rugby league team but then began to lean towards cricket.

Gerard and Deb had to make some big sacrifices too; they had to drive 2 1/2 hours three times a week, from their Cumbria home, after he was scouted by Durham.

Gerard, who played one test for the Kiwis in 1982, admits the sight of Ben wearing the three lions on his chest created some odd emotions.

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"It still feels strange and a lot of people can't make out how my son plays for England and I understand that completely.

"But I think of it from the perspective of where Ben comes from - he has spent half of his life in England. So it is probably natural for him but a little bit unnatural for us."

- © Fairfax NZ News

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