India v England – Ben Stokes frustrated after tourists’ failure to make it count with bat

Ben Stokes admitted England fell 100 runs short of expectations on the first day of the series decider against India following another chastening encounter with spin in Ahmedabad.

By Rory Dollard, PA
Thursday, 4th March 2021, 4:47 pm
FLASHPOINT: England's Ben Stokes, left, and India captain Virat Kohli, second right, exchange words in the middle during day one in Ahmedabad. Picture: Saikat Das / Sportzpics for BCCI (via ECB).
FLASHPOINT: England's Ben Stokes, left, and India captain Virat Kohli, second right, exchange words in the middle during day one in Ahmedabad. Picture: Saikat Das / Sportzpics for BCCI (via ECB).

The tourists had the chance to banish the memories of their two-day defeat at the same venue last week, winning the toss and finding batting conditions to be less extreme than they had expected.

But although the ball was not fizzing and turning or skidding unpredictably off the pitch, Ravichandran Ashwin and Axar Patel still found a way to run through the order, sharing seven more wickets as England were skittled out for 205.

India had time to reach 24-1 in reply but Stokes, who top-scored with 55, was honest enough to accept an opportunity had slipped through his side’s fingers.

GOT HIM: India's Mohammed Sirajcelebrates the wicket of Joe Root on day one in Ahmedabad. Picture: Pankaj Nangia/ Sportzpics for BCCI (via ECB).

“We should still be batting,” was Stokes’s succinct summary at the end of a frustrating day.

“I think we’ll look back on that and be disappointed by some of the batting.

“We’re more than capable of scoring more than 300 on a wicket like that out here, it’s frustrating.

“We sit down as a group and say we’ll try to put it (the previous game) behind us but that’s easier said than done.

Ben Stokes clips one through mid wicket off Ravichandran Ashwin on day one at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad. Picture: Pankaj Nangia/ Sportzpics for BCCI (via ECB)

“I know, overall, it’s a much better wicket than the last one we played on so we’re just disappointed not to still be out there batting.

“I feel very frustrated that I spent two-and-a-half hours trying to avoid getting out to a straight ball then I ended up getting out to a straight ball.”

Stokes had plenty on his mind at the time. Not only had he emerged as his side’s leading light with the bat, he had been battling the symptoms of a stomach bug and was also pencilled in to open the bowling after a selection gamble left England with James Anderson as a lone frontline paceman.

He was clearly feeling under the weather and was worryingly non-committal about his prospects of reaching 100 per cent in the coming days.

“I’ll tell you the truth, I’ll just have to wait and see, day by day,” was the best he could offer.

Stokes was part of the decision-making group which hashed out England’s surprising team-sheet, which included Dan Lawrence as a specialist batsman at No 7 and hinted at plenty of work for the 38-year-old Anderson, and painted it a logical consequence of their previous defeat rather than a drastic reaction.

“I think if you look at the scorecard from the last Test match it will probably give you all the answers that you need,” he said.

“Lengthening the batting line-up was something we took away from the last Test match, having that extra batter in case we are facing similar conditions. We felt that seam isn’t going to offer as much in terms of being a threat, it’s more of a holding role.”

Stokes also sought to suck any drama out of an early exchange of words with home captain Virat Kohli.

“It’s two professionals showing they care about the sport that they love,” he said. “A lot gets said these days when two guys seem to come to words out in the middle. There was completely nothing untoward, just two blokes who care about what they do and two guys who definitely don’t back down.”

Seamer Mohammed Siraj had his own take, telling reporters: “He (Stokes) abused me and I told Virat, who handled it. It’s important to have the backing of your captain.”

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