Stokes has taken his game to "next level" in IPL, says AB de Villiers


London: South Africa captain AB de Villiers believes England all-rounder Ben Stokes has taken his game to the "next level" in the Indian Premier League but stressed the tournament had improved many of his players too.
The Proteas are set to come up against Stokes in a three-match one-day international series starting next week that will act as a warm-up ahead of June`s Champions Trophy tournament in England.
Stokes struck a maiden Twenty20 century while playing for the Rising Pune Supergiants in the Twenty20 IPL and also took 12 wickets during the tournament.
England will hope the Durham star can transfer that form into 50-over cricket, beginning with Wednesday`s first ODI at Headingley.
"Stokes is a fantastic cricketer, with both bat and ball," said de Villiers at Hove ahead of South Africa`s tour opener against Sussex .
"He`s definitely got something special about him.
"A lot of guys lose their way in the IPL, and others find the next level in their game. Ben Stokes definitely lifted his game and I think it would have done him the world of good.
"But a few of our players who played over there lifted their game. I faced (leg-spinner) Imran Tahir in the nets and he`s certainly stepped his game up a bit, and come up with a few new deliveries, and so has everyone else who was there."South Africa are currently top of the International Cricket Council`s ODI rankings but will be facing an England side who have lost only one series at home, a 3-2 defeat by world champions Australia, since their embarrassing first-round exit at the 2015 World Cup.
"I remember thinking in 2015 they had hit rock bottom," said de Villiers. "The way they came back from that earned a lot of respect around the world."
South Africa, like England yet to win the World Cup, suffered fresh heartbreak in 2015 after losing to co-hosts New Zealand in a thrilling semi-final.
"I haven`t won one of these trophies in my career, so I`m pretty desperate to win one, and we`ll do anything we can to get out on top," said de Villiers.
"We know these tournaments are very competitive -- there are eight teams that want to win it and can win it but we do think we`ve got a very good squad here. I`ve got a good feeling about this one.
"But first things first, we want to win the series against England."