Ben Stokes: ‘We’re man enough to say that we’ve been outplayed’

England were outplayed by the better team since winning the first Test against India – that was Ben Stokes’ assessment of his side’s 4-1 series defeat, delivered well inside three days of the final match in Dharamsala.
Faced with a first-innings defict of 259, England were bowled out for 195 in their second as India won by an innings and 64 runs. Stokes’ response immediately after the match was measured in the face of R Ashwin‘s five-wicket haul – he took nine for the match in his 100th Test – which sealed the result. Centuries to Shubman Gill and Rohit Sharma helped India to an imposing 477 after Kuldeep Yadav‘s five-for helped restrict England to 218 in their first innings.

“Now that the series has come to an end – I don’t give too much away, obviously, whilst the series is going on – but since the first Test match of the series, we’re man enough and we’re big enough to say that we’ve been outplayed by the better team in the series,” Stokes said at the post-match presentation. “But we’ve got so much cricket coming up in our summer, and then Pakistan and New Zealand. Taking the positives that we’ve got from the series is something that I’m really looking forward to. I’m excited to be a part of driving this team even further forward.”

Speaking to broadcaster TNT afterwards, Stokes added that the tour result had done nothing to dent England’s Bazball ethos, saying “we ain’t gonna let the last two years go to waste over this series in isolation”, having said during the presentation that he wasn’t troubled by a lack of batting consistency.

“When you look at the game as a whole, and the series as a whole, there’s been really small moments throughout every Test match where we wrestled a bit of momentum back towards us, but we’ve not just been able to maintain and keep that going,” Stokes said. “And in Test-match cricket, especially out here where the game can turn really fast on you, it’s about understanding that and trying to understand those moments and being a bit more relentless with it. How that looks, I’m not sure, but we’re all here at the highest level playing cricket. I think we all know as individuals that that’s probably where it’s gone wrong for us, on more than one occasion.

“When India get on top, especially with the ball, you see a lot of men come around the bat, and when you’ve got the quality bowlers that they do – Ashwin, [Ravindra] Jadeja, Kuldeep – you’ve got to find ways of getting the guys around the bat out of there. Sometimes that comes with risk. Risk doesn’t always pay off, but you get a couple of sweeps away and then you find you’ve only got one man around the bat. You’ve just got to be positive enough to be able to take that risk, and know that sometimes it can be your downfall.

“You can look and say, ‘could I have done something better?’ But when the intent and the application is there, with the real reason as to why you’re playing that shot, then you can’t really say too much else.”

In spite of the margin of England’s defeat, Stokes reiterated that there were positives to take from the match and series. Young spinner Shoaib Bashir overcame illness on the eve of the match to take his second five-wicket haul in as many Tests (just the second and third of his career). Tom Hartley stepped in as lead spinner in the absence of an injured Jack Leach, while Zak Crawley and Ben Duckett continued to develop their partnership at the top of the batting line-up with seven 45-plus stands in the series.
Some of the senior players had their moments at the end of the series, too, with Joe Root coming into form with a century in the fourth Test and 84 in the second innings of the fifth, while at the age of 41, James Anderson took the 700th wicket of a Test career spanning nearly 21 years.

“I’ve been lucky enough to be on the field with some of the lads there, the milestones that Jimmy’s got to, but being there for 700 wickets as a seamer, it is quite phenomenal,” Stokes added.

“I’ve said many a time that he’s someone who every young kid, if he wants to be a fast bowler, should look up to and try and emulate,” he continued. “Everything that he has done from the day he first started being a cricketer, let alone international cricketer, to where he is now … 41 years old, he’s as fit as I’ve ever seen him, and I honestly just don’t know when he’s going to stop, because the desire to commit is still there. It’s great to watch.”

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