BEN STOKES returned to action in astonishing fashion for the first time since being named England’s new captain with a record-breaking century for Durham in the LV=Insurance County Championship match with Worcestershire at New Road.

The all-rounder struck 17 sixes, a century before lunch, and 34 off an over from Josh Baker on his way to 161 from 88 deliveries.

Stokes’ number of maximums was a record for a Championship innings, beating the 16 achieved by Andrew Symonds (1995) and Graham Napier (2011) for Gloucestershire and Essex respectively.

His efforts enabled Durham to declare on 580-6 shortly after lunch and then a five-wicket haul from Matthew Potts reduced Worcestershire to 169-6 by the close despite a century stand between Brett D’Oliveira and Ed Barnard.

Fittingly, Stokes’ exploits were witnessed by Durham chair, Sir Ian Botham, whose own career was legendary for such performances.

It was brutal, clean hitting from Stokes that attacks around the world stronger than Worcestershire’s have been powerless to halt during the past decade. But from England’s point of view it was a delight to see Stokes in such destructive form before he takes over from Joe Root against New Zealand in the Lord’s Test on June 2.

This was his first knock since England’s ten-wicket setback against the West Indies in the third Test in Grenada.

He entered the playing area to a warm reception and returned to a standing ovation from a decent sized crowd privileged to have witnessed such carnage.

Durham resumed on 339-3 and Ben Gibbon picked up his second scalp of the innings when Scott Borthwick, on 89, was lbw to a delivery angled back in.

Stokes initially played himself in while scoring just 12 runs from his opening 30 deliveries.

But then came the sort of fireworks that have made Stokes one of cricket’s box office attractions during the past decade.

By any standards it was an extraordinary display and even wild geese flying across the ground looked in danger of being hit by the missiles launched from Stokes bat!

His first maximum was a huge hit off Ed Barnard over mid-wicket and set the tone for the remainder of the morning.

England Under-19 spinner Baker in particular bore the brunt of the slaughter in one over where he was in acute danger of being hit for six sixes.

The first five deliveries cleared the ropes, three over long on and one apiece over long off and mid wicket as Stokes century came up from 64 balls.

There was a conference between Baker, Club Captain D’Oliveira and other players before the final ball.

Stokes smote the ball down the ground but it bounced once before clearing the boundary much to his annoyance and he waved his bat in frustration.

But he did not let it affect him and launched another six onslaught against Worcestershire’s long-serving talisman in Joe Leach.

In the middle of this carnage, David Bedingham completed an excellent hundred of his own from just 120 balls, his second in the Championship this summer.

The morning session produced a staggering 210 runs from 27 overs.

Stokes completed his 150 via the very first ball after the interval with six over long on off Gibbon and the record for the most maximum blows in the Championship was achieved with a straight hit off D’Oliveira.

An unforgettable innings finally ended when he holed out to Jack Haynes on the mid wicket boundary off D’Oliveira.

Potts then produced a superb spell with the new ball under increasingly leaden skies to reduce Worcestershire to 41-4.