Star all-rounder Ben Stokes is a "game changer" and his absence from the remainder of the three-Test series against Pakistan will be a "massive miss", feels England batsman Ollie Pope. Stokes has pulled out of the next two Tests due to family reasons. The second Test starts on Thursday at the Ageas Bowl.
"There are bigger things than cricket and it is important that Ben Stokes is able to spend time with his family - but he will be a massive miss for us for the rest of the series against Pakistan," Pope said in his column for Sky Sports.
"He is probably the best cricketer in the world at the moment, a game changer, and even if he does miss out with bat or ball, his aura on the pitch or slip catching still influences games."
England had registered a sensational three-wicket win over Pakistan in the opening Test at Manchester to take a 1-0 lead in the three-Test series. Stokes was out for zero and 9 in the two innings but claimed two crucial wickets in four overs in the second innings of the opening Test.
"To have him around is awesome but, as we showed in the previous Test, we are not reliant on one player. We have guys who step up to the mark," Pope said.
England were staring at defeat after being reduced to 117 for five on the final day but Jos Buttler and Chris Woakes stitched a match-winning 139 run stand to take the team home.
"Any Test match victory is special but winning in the fashion we did on Saturday does mean a bit more. I think everyone had written us off on the fourth morning and it then looked a pretty uphill task at 117-5 - if we are being completely honest, our hopes were pretty low," Pope said.
"That's not because we didn't back our batsmen but purely because of the nature of some of the dismissals and the way the pitch was reacting with inconsistent bounce. The way Stokesy got out to one that bounced out of the rough, the way I got out to a ball that reared up and hit me on the wrist."
Pope was dismissed by Shaheen Afridi.