It was apt that Kevin Pietersen was at Edgbaston to see the moment of cricketing genius that could easily have been overlooked in the drama of a pulsating World Cup victory over India.
When England’s Ben Stokes reversed his stance to hit a right-handed slog-sweep for six off Yuzvendra Chahal at Edgbaston on Sunday, memories of the shot’s pioneer came flooding back.
It was Pietersen who invented the ‘switch-hit’ when he struck Muttiah Muralitharan for six at the same ground in 2006 and repeated the trick, a little controversially for some tastes, against New Zealand’s Scott Styris at Durham two years later.
Ben Stokes reverses his stance to hit a right-handed slog-sweep against India on Sunday
Now Pietersen, commentating for Indian television, was able to watch in admiration as Stokes somehow improved on the shot to break what had become an Indian stranglehold at a crucial stage of the must-win game.
This was a brilliant piece of improvisation by Stokes, who is maturing into so much more than the hitter who blasted his way to that double hundred against South Africa at Cape Town in the carefree days when he emerged as England’s talisman.
Now, with the incident at Bristol that threatened his career very much behind him, Stokes appears to be maturing not only off the pitch but also on it, in his superb and responsible batting performances during this World Cup.
Stokes may be the only member of England’s regular top six yet to score a century in this tournament but he has arguably been their best batsman in making four scores of 75-plus, often in demanding circumstances.
Stokes raises his bat after reaching his half century against the Indians at Edgbaston
There was the explosive introduction in the opening match at the Oval when he scored 89, took two wickets and held on to that miraculous catch against South Africa to make an immediate mark on what he calls ‘our World Cup’.
But since then Stokes has really impressed, with two of his best innings coming in losing causes against Sri Lanka and Australia — when he did everything possible to avoid those damaging defeats for England but did not receive enough support. Against India, he ensured that a stalling of England’s progress after the departures of Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow — they went 10 overs without a boundary — did