Manchester: England all-rounder Ben Stokes hailed Pakistan’s Yasir Shah on Wednesday as the best leg-spinner since Australia great Shane Warne.
Shah bowled Pakistan to a 75-run win over England in the first Test at Lord’s last week with a brilliant match-haul of 10 for 141.
His return left Shah atop the International Cricket Council (ICC) Test bowler rankings and was all the more impressive as the pitch at Lord’s did not offer excessive turn.
That left Shah with 86 wickets in a mere 13 Tests at an average of 23, compared to Warne’s mammoth 708 in 145 Tests at just over 25 apiece in a career that ended in 2007.
Conditions could favour Shah far more at Old Trafford, where the second Test starts on Friday.
Stokes, who will hope to make his return to Test cricket at the Manchester ground after a knee injury, was in no doubt of Shah’s quality.
“Yasir Shah, I reckon, is the best leg-spinner since Shane Warne,” Stokes told an Old Trafford press conference broadcast on Sky Sports.
“They are a very good team but we go into the Test match knowing how he goes about bowling and we should be able to counteract that,” the Durham all-rounder added.
“(The conditions are) another thing we will have to try and adapt to and we’ll just see how it goes.”
Stokes has not played for England since injuring his knee in the first Test against Sri Lanka in May.
He returned to action as a batsman only with Durham before, after being deemed not fully fit for the Pakistan opener, bowling for his county against Lancashire last week.
Having not shown any adverse effects following his bowling stint, the 25-year-old Stokes is eager to resume his England career.
“It’s the first game where I have played doing both parts of my game,” he explained.
“I have been playing as a batsman for two weeks, it is something I definitely did need, to get myself back into match situations.
“I have been bowling in the nets but you can’t replicate doing that, the only thing you can do is bowl in a game. So it was good on that point and it was a massive confidence boost.
“It seems a lot longer than it has been. I thought I was going to be back earlier than I was, purely because of how good the rehab was in the first few weeks. I am here now and I’m back fully fit.”
England are 1-0 down in the four-match series and Stokes is in line for a recall to bolster the home side’s batting as much as for his lively pace bowling.
“Losing is something that we can’t afford to do but we have have been playing some good Test cricket over the last two years,” he said.
“It’s one defeat, we are not taking it to heart, we’re just treating it as a three-match series and hoping we can win it.”