Newcastle manager backs Stokes for centre-half role

London, Aug 26 (IANS) The manager of Premier League side Newcastle United, Steve Bruce, who among many watched how Ben Stokes scripted an improbable Ashes-saving victory for England on Sunday, joked that he was willing to play the all-rounder as a centre-half in his team.

Durham-based Stokes, who is a Newcastle fan, slammed a remarkable unbeaten 135 as the hosts chased down a record target of 359 to level the five-match series 1-1 against traditional foes Australia.

Newcastle stunned Tottenham Hotspur 1-0 in the English Premier League on the same day for their first win of the season.

"I don't know what was more nervous. The last 10 minutes of the cricket or this (match). Ben Stokes can play centre-half for us next week that's for sure," Bruce said tongue in cheek, as quoted by ESPNFC.

"How wonderful it was to watch. (The cricket) was just on. They (Newcastle) had gone for a warm-up and there's nothing you can do then. I usually sit and read the programme.

"But how could I not watch? The kitman was running around ... saying 'We need 27, we've got to put it on.'

"It was wonderful entertainment, worth watching. It was better than reading the programme that's for sure."

England started the fourth day looking to prevent Australia from retaining the Ashes. They got to 286/9, still needing 73 runs for an improbable victory.

But World Cup hero Stokes joined hands with number 11 batsman Jack Leach and did the unthinkable by smashing eight sixes to all corners of the ground and helped England get to touching distance of their highest-ever second-innings total to win a Test match.

Nathan Lyon missed an easy run-out opportunity to dismiss Leach and Stokes survived LBW shouts, with Australia unable to review, but that doesn't take anything away from the brilliance that was on display in Leeds. It was only poetic justice that Stokes smashed one through the covers to bring up what looked like a fairy tale win for the Englishmen.

"It was unbelievable and something I will never forget. I've got to take it all in. I'm not sure it will ever happen again. It's in the top two feelings I have ever had on a cricket field," Stokes told Sky TV after the win.

"It is right up there (with the World Cup win). We had to win this game and we managed to do it," said the all-rounder who smashed an unbeaten 84 in the World Cup final one and a half months ago against New Zealand at Lord's. England won that match for hitting more boundaries as the Super Over ended in a tie.

--IANS

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