Former England fast bowler Steve Harmison has praised Ben Stokes, saying “it’s fantastic” what the Cumbrian has achieved so far in his career.

Harmison played alongside Stokes, from Cockermouth, at Durham.

And as he presented the 27-year-old with his 50th England Test cap ahead of their first Test against the West Indies, he gave his take on Stokes’ rise from “this cheeky little kid from Cumbria” to now being England’s premier all-rounder.

“Geoff Cook [former Durham head coach] is a special person in my life but in Ben’s life, as well,” said Harmison who appeared alongside Shaun Udal at Carlisle Cricket Club's annual dinner last year.

“He mentioned Ben for the first time when he was a 14-year-old. He said ‘We’ve got this cheeky little kid from Cumbria, red hair, great character. I think he’s our next special one.’ I said I’ll keep an eye on him.

“A 16-year-old comes in our dressing room. The minute I saw him in our dressing room, I phoned Andrew Flintoff, one of my best mates. I said ‘There’s a kid here in the corner, sitting in his manky underpants and picking his nose. He’s just bowled for an hour in no socks and he’s hit the ball like you’d never believe. I think Geoff’s right, he’s the next special one’. Andrew replied ‘What’s his name?’ I said Ben Stokes.

“Stokes, look at you now. A fantastic man, absolutely brilliant.

"I’ve seen you from when you were little to where you are now. It’s completely deserved. It’s fantastic what you have achieved so far in your career.”

Having made his One-Day International debut in 2011, Stokes earned his first Test cap in an Ashes series, making a positive impression despite England falling to a humiliating 5-0 loss in the 2013/14 Ashes.

Then, in 2016, he struck the second-fastest double century in history.

Stokes was part of England’s World T20 squad which reached the World Cup final later that year but, asked to bowl the last over of the final, he was hit for four straight sixes as West Indies won the tournament.

Despite this, Stokes’ stock continued to rise and he became the Indian Premier League’s most expensive foreign player when Rising Pune Supergiant bought him for £1.7m in 2017.

But, last year, Stokes’ year was dominated by matters off the field when he was suspended after his part in a fight outside a Bristol nightclub in September 2017. He was eventually cleared of affray last August.