Ben Stokes: Victorious England 'hugely inspired' playing in memory of the Queen

England captain Ben Stokes revealed his players took “a huge amount of inspiration” from the Queen after completing an LV= Insurance Test series win over South Africa at the Kia Oval on Monday.

The death of the long-reigning monarch, announced by Buckingham Palace officials on Thursday evening, led to Friday's play in the decisive third Test being called off as a mark of respect.

A carefully-orchestrated commemoration took place before the action on Saturday got under way, with the sell-out crowd hushed as the players, wearing black armbands, made their way on to the field to a military guard of honour.

A minute's silence was then observed after which soprano Laura Wright performed the national anthems of first South Africa then England, with those in attendance joining in a stirring rendition of God Save the King before they then burst into a spontaneous and prolonged applause.

"I'll never forget walking down the steps out of the changing rooms to complete silence in the ground," said England Test captain Stokes. "We didn't know that that was going to happen.

"We're normally used to walking down with the big cheering and everything like that but walking down, the silence was deafening. It was incredible.

"You could see the upset, but also the amount of respect that everyone has for the Queen, for her service to the country and all around the world as well."

England v South Africa Cricket Test - Sep 2022

Friday's abandonment after Thursday's washout meant the series decider between England and South Africa was a three-day affair but Stokes' side comfortably claimed a nine-wicket win inside half an hour of the third on Monday morning.

There was some doubt on Friday about whether the Test would proceed but Stokes said at the time he would be "honoured" to play in memory of the Queen, who had reigned over the UK since 1952.

"We take a huge amount of inspiration from what she did in her reign," added Stokes.

"We obviously do it nowhere near to the extent that she did for the 70 years. But we walk out there and we represent this country and we do it with a lot of pride and honour as well."

Stokes, meanwhile, feels it is "scary" to contemplate England's ceiling after a transformative summer as their talismanic Test captain revealed he already has his sights on the 2023 Ashes.

Alongside head coach Brendon McCullum, Stokes has galvanised a side that won just once in 17 Tests prior to their appointments, doing so despite a number of fast bowlers being sidelined with injuries.

Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum

Stokes namechecked Jofra Archer and Mark Wood as two players he feels can take them to greater heights, with the hope the pair will be firing on all cylinders by the time the Ashes rolls around next summer.

He said: "Who knows how far we can take this side over the next couple of years? We've got two of our premium fast bowlers who have had big injuries this summer and have missed a lot of cricket.

"You add Jofra and Woody into the mix being fully fit - it's scary to think where things could go, especially with the ball. And the batters that we've got coming through, it's a very high ceiling."

While Stokes is already relishing the chance of another crack at Australia, who regained the urn after a 4-0 triumph Down Under last winter, the all-rounder admitted England cannot look too far forward.

The expansive approach they have undertaken under the new management will be stress tested in a two-match trip against Pakistan in December and Stokes insisted he was not taking the tour lightly.

He said: "I am excited by the Ashes next summer, especially with the way we are playing.

"I am looking at it, it's hard not to look at it, especially with how the last Ashes trip went. But we have got to concentrate on Pakistan first and foremost.

"It would be silly not to reflect on this summer, and not take too much into it because it's a very special thing we've managed to achieve.

"This has been a huge collective responsibility put on everyone this summer and everyone's dived into it and everyone's really taken to it like a duck to water.

"It is something that we are going to have to try to continue to do in Pakistan, we can't live off the fact that we've won six out of seven games because we will be presented with a completely different challenge."

England will at least go into their next assignment brimming with confidence after a comprehensive nine-wicket win over South Africa in a truncated third Test, with Zak Crawley's 69 not out underpinning a successful chase of 130.

England's Zak Crawley raises his bat

It was Crawley's first fifty in 17 Test innings as he ended his disappointing summer positively, which included hitting the winning runs as England claimed the 33 they still needed on Monday inside six overs.

Asked whether his faith in the under-fire opener has wavered, Stokes answered: "The best thing to say would be 'no' here, but I can categorically say that at no stage throughout the whole summer have I ever doubted Zak Crawley opening the batting."

Alex Lees was the only wicket to fall for the hosts as he was dismissed for 39 in a streaky innings in which he was dropped twice, but he still played his part in England's fastest century opening partnership - as he and Crawley reached their side's three figures in just 17.2 overs.

Stokes said: "They've not got the number of runs that they would have liked to. But what they have done is they have been the guys who have set the tone for these particular moments for us.

"(They) have taken away any selfish goals in their international career and really focused on what is required and needed of the team."

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