Wednesday, 26 October 2016, 06:42am
Trevor Bayliss backs Ben Stokes to reach the top after England beat Bangladesh
Stokes fittingly took the final two wickets as England clinched a 22-run win in Chittagong on the final morning, having bailed out the tourists with both ball and bat as the Test unfolded.
His four for 26 sparked a Bangladesh collapse as they surrendered a first-innings lead and when the game was back in the balance after England's top order floundered, Stokes rode to the rescue with a mature 85 from 151 balls which helped set a target that proved agonisingly beyond the hosts.
It was arguably Stokes' finest all-round display in an England shirt and that it came on a turning wicket not generally suited to his strengths was all the more satisfying for Bayliss.
The England head coach has been impressed with Stokes' determination to improve his batting against spin and it is paying handsome rewards, with the 25-year-old also registering his maiden one-day hundred in Dhaka earlier this month.
Stokes' form augurs well for England ahead of a testing schedule on the subcontinent this winter, with five Tests in India to come following the conclusion of the Bangladesh tour later this week.
Bayliss said: "The potential of the guy, he could be right up there with some of the all-time best all-rounders. Only time will tell.
"Certainly the strides he's made on the subcontinent playing spin has been top class.
"It wasn't all that long ago we were wondering how he might go on spin-friendly wickets, but he's a guy that works extremely hard in the nets.
"I think it's his defence to spin that he's improved out of sight. We know that if he gets a bad ball he can hit anything over the fence but you've got to be there to get that loose ball."
With another six Tests to play before Christmas, England have stressed the need to manage workloads and while that might mean resting key personnel, Bayliss was reluctant to include the bullish Stokes in that category.
The Australian said: "It would be a brave man to bet against it, with Stokesy. I'm not sure we'd be game enough to drop him out anyway, we might get a thump in the head!
"With him, we've got to watch what he does between the Tests to make sure he is available for all the matches. He allows us to play that extra spinner and the third pace bowler. He's very important."
The performance of Stokes, and others such as Jonny Bairstow and Moeen Ali with the bat, papered over some of the cracks in the line-up, most notably the top order.
In both innings, England were four down before the 100 was up as they cracked under the pressure of facing spin at both ends from the start, with Gary Ballance's place seemingly vulnerable after a lean run following his recall to the side earlier this year.
Despite Ballance averaging only 22.77 in his last five Tests, Bayliss suggested England will stick with the same top six in the second Test, which gets under way in Dhaka on Friday, and any changes are likely to be in the bowling department.
He said: "I don't think there's any reason to change at this stage.
"The top four guys found it very difficult against the new ball facing the spinners. I'm sure all the batters will be better for it and better prepared going into the next match.
"We have got confidence in all of the guys who are with us. (Any changes) will probably be more with the bowling than the batting at this stage.
"At some stage I've got a feeling most of the bowlers will play in this winter tour."
England's spin trio - Moeen, Adil Rashid and Gareth Batty - were also criticised in some quarters for failing to have the same impact as their Bangladeshi counterparts.
But Bayliss added: "They did pretty well. We've still got some work to be done there. I think with us, it's more the consistency of length that will be the telling point."
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Trevor Bayliss believes Ben Stokes can become one of the best all-rounders in cricket history