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Ben Stokes: 'We've still got a great chance to win 3-2'

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Published in Cricket
Sunday, 18 February 2024 06:21
Ben Stokes, England's captain, has promised that his team will park the disappointment of their crushing 434-run loss in the third Test in Rajkot, and move onto Ranchi later this week fully focussed on bouncing back to claim a 3-2 series victory.

After challenging India hard over the first two days of the contest, England's resolve collapsed on days three and four, with their final 18 wickets tumbling for 217 runs, either side of a free-wheeling second innings from India that was lit up by Yashasvi Jaiswal's unbeaten 214.

The upshot was India's largest victory by runs in Test history, and caused England's ultra-positive approach to come under intense scrutiny - most particularly in the wake of Joe Root's fateful reverse-scoop against Jasprit Bumrah on the third morning which triggered England's slide from a threatening overnight scoreline of 207 for 2.
Stokes, however, insisted his side would not be swayed by outside opinion, and that they would instead double down on the dressing-room mentality that has carried the team to 14 wins in 21 matches since the start of the 2022 home summer, including a remarkable 28-run victory in the first Test in Hyderabad.

"Everyone's got a perception and opinion about things," Stokes said during the post-match presentations. "But again, the people in the dressing-room's are the opinions that really matter to us.

"We know that things don't always work out exactly how you want it to, but at 2-1 down in the series, still got two games left, so we've got a great chance to come home with the trophy at 3-2.

"We'll make sure that we're moving on and focusing on what we've got coming up ahead, because games can be won and lost in the head. We'll be leaving all the emotion and disappointment from this week, and moving on to the next one."

Root's first-innings dismissal was described in one English newspaper as "the worst shot in Test history", but the criticism of England's batting also encompassed Stokes' departure for 41, caught in the deep while trying to hit Ravindra Jadeja for six.

His departure at 299 for 6 triggered a final collapse of 5 for 20, and an India first-innings lead of 126. However, Stokes remained adamant that the speed of England's innings had been an important consideration, seeing as they were also due to bat last on an increasingly spin-friendly pitch, and that his proven approach to power-hitting was the best means to achieve their aims.

"If you look at the situation we found ourselves in going into day three, to give ourselves a chance of winning we had to try and press the button after the lunch break," he said. "They got some quick wickets, so we had to absorb the pressure that India threw at us there. But me personally, I sensed that as an opportunity after lunch to go out and have 'one of my days out', we'll call it.

"I've got an unbelievable belief in myself that I can do that," he added. "Just like I have an unbelievable belief in every individual in there that, on their day, they can turn the game in our favour. We wanted to be bowling at the back end of day three, that came a lot earlier than we wanted to, but that's how some things go. Nothing goes your way all the time."

Stokes also praised Ben Duckett's "unbelievable" first-innings knock of 153 from 151 balls, adding that "that was the tone that we wanted to set for our whole innings". By the end, however, he conceded that Jaiswal's response, a second double-century of the series featuring a world-record-equalling 12 sixes, had been "phenomenal" to behold.

"Every game has been filled with multiple, unbelievable things to be able to witness as a supporter," Stokes said. "Jaiswal's double-hundred was, honestly, it was just phenomenal to watch it, even though we're on the wrong side of it. Obviously we're very disappointed to be on the wrong side of the result, but one thing we're very good at as a team, and also myself, has been able to leave everything that's gone behind us."

With a short turnaround to the fourth Test, Stokes acknowledged that changes to England's seam attack could be on the cards, with James Anderson and Mark Wood putting in big shifts in tough conditions in Rajkot. One potential boost for England, however, could come from the captain himself, who has been rehabilitating from recent knee surgery, and believes he's not far away from a return to match bowling for the first time since the Lord's Test in June last year.

"I'm not going to lie," Stokes told TNT. "I feel really good. I've managed to get my first ball out 100% on day one or day two here. Me as a person, I like to maybe jump the gun a little bit too much. But yeah, things are feeling really good. But I've got a whole body to get used to bowling again. So I'm not saying no, but not saying yes either."

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