Stokes: ‘Had full belief we could chase down 399’

England

It proved to be the case, but Ben Stokes says at no point did his side believe their lofty fourth-innings target in the second Test against India was too many.

Still needing 332 of the 399 set by the hosts, captain Stokes and his team began the fourth day in Visakhapatnam with the trademark self-belief that is a lynchpin of their Bazball ethos.

“Coming into this last innings we had full belief in ourselves that we could go and chase that down,” Stokes said at the post-match presentation. “The way in which we go about taking on challenges like that is what we’re about and the number of runs that we needed to get was just sort of another thing for us to try and try and chase down.

“In moments like that, in games when you’ve got scoreboard pressure, a lot of runs to chase down, that’s where your process and the way in which we know that we get the best out of ourselves as individuals, that really comes out. And I thought the way in which we applied ourselves and really tried to put India’s bowling attack under a lot of pressure was great. Unfortunately, we didn’t end up on the right side of the result. Congrats to India, I thought they played a fantastic game and, again, another great game to be a part of.

“There’s no suggestion whatsoever about how to go out and play, it’s go out and play how you best feel at a given time. We knew the task ahead… and everyone in that dressing room there is a quality player and they are good enough to be able to go out there, assess the conditions or the situation and also assess how they’re feeling and how they best feel to go about getting those runs.”

Stokes was further heartened by the fact that England had sliced 67 runs off their task for the loss of just one wicket – Ben Duckett on the third evening – and with Zak Crawley looking in good touch.

“The big thing for us was asserting our authority very early and letting the Indian bowling attack know that this is how we’re going to go about the day, trying to not let them settle and make it as hard as we possibly could for them,” Stokes told broadcaster TNT. “I know we’ve got to give credit to [India captain] Rohit [Sharma], the way in which he led, and credit to the bowlers that every time that we would drag the momentum back towards us and sort of felt like we were getting on top of them, they were able to produce something to take the wicket and put us back.

“But I’m real pleased with the way in which that we found ourselves in a pressure situation. Chasing runs down in India is never easy, but we were actually able to go out there and stick to everything that we speak about.”

Crawley was twice England’s top-scorer, adding 73 runs to his first-innings 76, but ultimately England fell short in the face of Jasprit Bumrah‘s timely wicket-taking prowess. Bumrah took 3 for 46, including the dangerous Jonny Bairstow on the stroke of lunch and last man to fall Tom Hartley, to add to his six-wicket haul from England’s first innings and seal victory. But Stokes said Crawley had exemplified his team’s approach to the fourth innings.

“That period last night when your openers have to go out, it’s one of those, what do you do? But I think when you have that real clarity, you’re able to see what they did last night,” Stokes added. “We could have easily been 20 for none, and not lost a wicket, but the game’s not really gone anywhere. Yes, we lost Duckett at the end of the day, but we’ve knocked 60 runs off and that’s a huge deficit when you come to a new day.

“But Zak, he started again this morning, he sensed the threat in Bumrah early on and then when the spin came on, he looked to assert his dominance a bit more. But a great game for him with the bat, especially considering he’s someone who’s not been exposed to conditions like these for the most part of his career. Very happy for him and I think it’s a great stepping stone for him. “

Stokes was also full of praise for his trio of young spinners, Hartley, Shoaib Bashir and Rehan Ahmed, who took eight of India’s second-innings wickets between them as the hosts were bowled out for 255, with the more experienced Joe Root bowling just two overs of spin before succumbing to an injury to his right little finger, sustained while fielding. James Anderson, the vastly experienced seamer, took the other two as part of his haul of five wickets for the match.

“Looking at Tom, Bash and Rehan – five or six Test matches between them – to put in the performance that they did yesterday, obviously without Joe, and Jimmy having bowled a very long spell on Saturday, I thought what they were able to produce in terms of effort and output was incredible,” Stokes said. “They showed a lot of maturity, a lot of skill beyond their years and experience and it’s something I’m very proud of as a captain.”

With the third Test, in Rajkot, not starting for 10 days, England’s squad will head to Abu Dhabi to enjoy a break with their families.

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