Cricket

Ben Stokes fully fit after shoulder injury as he starts SA tour with a bang

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Ben Stokes has declared himself fully fit to take on South Africa after starting his tour with a blistering century in Potchefstroom.

Stokes suffered a nasty-looking shoulder injury playing against Pakistan in October, hitting the ground hard after attempting a diving catch.

Initial fears of a break or dislocation were allayed and the joint damage he did sustain cleared up sufficiently for him to join the touring squad.

He has experienced no ill-effects from bowling in the nets and gave himself a thorough batting workout on the opening day against a South Africa Invitational XI.

The all-rounder pounded the locals to the tune of 158 in 131 balls, smashing five sixes and 23 fours in a day one total of 470 for seven.

Stokes, like fellow centurion James Taylor (114), eventually retired out to allow others a chance, not because of any fitness concerns.

"There's been no pain and I haven't twinged it or anything so far, so touch wood nothing bad happens again," he said.

"The first two weeks after I did it is was a little bit sore, I was worried about if I was going to be fit but I did everything to make sure that I was on the plane out here.

"I worked really hard with the physios at the ECB and Durham, followed all the medical advice, which is unlike me, as I just wanted to make sure I was fit.

"It's always nice to get runs in these warm-up games, it's what they're used for, but now it's a case of not getting too far ahead of myself and trying to keep the form I have shown up to the first Test."

The bigger test awaits Stokes when England take the field, when he will be not only handed the ball but also throwing himself around the outfield again.

But he has no worries about his involvement.

"I'm fully fit to bowl, I'm 100 per cent fit," he said.

"I have done the same amount of bowling work as I have batting work back at home and then out here in the nets.

"I've been working in a couple of training sessions on diving because I think that's going to be the main thing, but bowling and batting there's been no pain."

While Stokes was the headline act, the efforts of Taylor and Nick Compton, who made a careful 58 on his first appearance since May 2013, were just as encouraging.

Compton's knock, the smallest of the three and by some distance the slowest, was also arguably the most important.

He left the ball smartly, kept calm as three top-order wickets fell in the first hour and did his best to take the sting out of the attack.

"The way he played today was really good to watch as a middle-order batsman," said Stokes.

"He got through the hard bit, getting the shine off the ball. So if he can continue that form he's putting his hand up for selection in the first Test.

"We have looked at some figures comparing the new ball to a slightly older one and we know that the first hour is going to be the hard part to get through. Once it gets a bit old, we can try and capitalise on that."

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