Ben Stokes marked his first innings since being appointed England Test captain with a record-breaking 161 from 88 deliveries for Durham against Worcestershire at New Road.
Stokes, who was announced as Joe Root’s successor last week, reached three figures from just 64 balls for Durham’s fastest first-class century and his 17 sixes is a new benchmark in English county cricket.
This was Stokes’ first appearance of the LV= Insurance County Championship season following a knee injury he aggravated during the West Indies tour in March and he made a lasting impression.
The 30-year-old walked to the crease with Durham in the ascendancy on 360 for four on the second morning of their Division Two clash and further strengthened their position with a boundary barrage.
The left-hander took just 47 balls to reach his half-century but went into overdrive thereafter as his second 50 took only 17 deliveries, with teenage slow left-armer Josh Baker coming in for punishment.
The first five balls of Baker’s 20th over were muscled over the boundary rope by Stokes, the second time he has hit the first five balls of an over for six, having done so against Hampshire in 2011.
Stokes’ fifth six took him to a century, shattering the Durham record for the quickest first-class ton as former team-mate Paul Collingwood’s 75-ball knock against Somerset in 2005 was put in the shade.
It was only part of the story as Stokes was one blow away from emulating Sir Garfield Sobers, the only batter in championship history to hit six sixes in an over, having done so for Nottinghamshire in 1968.
6️⃣ 6️⃣ 6️⃣ 6️⃣ 6️⃣ 4️⃣
What. An. Over.
— LV= Insurance County Championship (@CountyChamp) May 6, 2022
Stokes thumped his pads with his bat in despair when yet another clean strike bounced just short of the long-on boundary, sparing Baker from joining ex-Glamorgan seamer Malcolm Nash in an undesirable club.
Baker was unsurprisingly hooked from the attack after leaking 34 in an over but Stokes was far from finished and went to lunch on 147 not out from 82 balls, with 15 sixes.
He flayed his 16th from the first ball after the resumption then recorded his 17th – breaking the previous county record held jointly by Andrew Symonds and Graham Napier – by hammering Brett D’Oliveira’s leg spin straight down the ground.
He eventually holed out to deep midwicket in D’Oliveira’s next over, ending a 220-run stand alongside David Bedingham (135) before Durham declared on 580 for six shortly afterwards.
Stokes sent down nine wicketless overs as Matty Potts took five for 36 as Worcestershire slumped to 169 for six in response.
Robinson strikes again after tea. 🙌 pic.twitter.com/GMzvpC3rNm
— Sussex Cricket (@SussexCCC) May 6, 2022
England seamer Ollie Robinson took three top-order wickets in his first appearance since the Ashes as Middlesex closed on 284 for six in response to Sussex’s 392 at Hove.
Robinson missed the Windies tour because of back spasms and a tooth infection delayed his Sussex return, but he bowled Sam Robson and John Simpson either side of cleaning up Middlesex captain Peter Handscomb.
Half-centuries from Sam Northeast (84) and Kiran Carlson (91) lifted Glamorgan to 305 for five against Leicestershire, who were earlier all out for 320 at Cardiff.
In Division One, Pakistan seamer Mohammad Abbas took six for 45 for Hampshire against Gloucestershire, who were all out for 179 before their bowlers fought back.
An Essex centurion for the first time 😍💯 pic.twitter.com/8z5TyTygDD
— Essex Cricket (@EssexCricket) May 6, 2022
Hampshire were in the ascendancy with a first-innings lead of 163 after they were all out for 342 but after deciding against the follow-on they slumped to 28 for four in their second dig as another Pakistan quick Mohammad Amir took three wickets – even if two of them were nightwatchmen.
Sam Curran’s 73 helped Surrey to 401 against Northamptonshire, who slumped to 154 for eight at the Oval, where Jordan Clark was the pick of the bowlers with three for 45.
Paul Walter registered his maiden first-class hundred as his 143 helped Essex to 403 against Yorkshire, who stumbled to 81 for three but still have Root, Dawid Malan and Harry Brook to bat at Chelmsford.
Lancashire openers Luke Wells (70 not out) and Keaton Jennings (44no) shared an unbroken 127-run stand in reply to Warwickshire’s 315 at Emirates Old Trafford on a rain-shortened day of only 59 overs.