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Ben Stokes responds to claim England lacked ‘ruthlessness’ to beat India


Ben Stokes dismissed suggestions England lack a ruthless edge and expressed pride at how his team have fared in Indian conditions after not being given a “chance in hell” of success.

England succumbed to a first Test series defeat under the leadership of captain Stokes and head coach Brendon McCullum, as India moved into an unassailable 3-1 lead with a five-wicket victory in Ranchi.

India hit back from 177 for seven in reply to 353 to keep the first-innings deficit to 46 then England crumbled from 110 for three to 145 all out on a turning track and could not stop the hosts chasing 192.

The tourists have let slip promising opportunities on several occasions in this series but Stokes is not one for regrets and instead commended Ravichandran Ashwin, Kuldeep Yadav and Ravindra Jadeja for swinging this Test India’s way after they shared all 10 wickets in England’s second innings.

India’s Dhruv Jurel, left, and Shubman Gill wrapped up victory

(AFP via Getty Images)

“Everyone goes into the game with their best intentions, when it doesn’t pay off people say we’re not ruthless but when they do, they say we are,” Stokes said. “I don’t really understand the saying. We try to do what we think is the best way to win the game. It can be a throwaway comment when people say we’re not ruthless enough. You can say everything is a missed chance when it doesn’t go well.

“When India have a sniff in conditions like that, any team is going to find it hard. When you’ve got three world-class spinners operating in those conditions, you know you’re going to be up against it. Nothing is impossible, I wouldn’t say that. But it was nigh-on impossible to operate how we wanted to. Cricket is always skill against skill. On this occasion, their skill was better than ours.”

When India have a sniff in conditions like that, any team is going to find it hard

Ben Stokes

The chase was far from straightforward for India, who slipped to 120 for five as Joe Root and Tom Hartley snared Yashasvi Jaiswal and Rohit Sharma before Shoaib Bashir claimed a three-wicket haul.

But an unbroken stand of 72 from Shubman Gill (52 not out) and Dhruv Jurel (39no) got India home to dash England’s dream of a series decider in Dharamshala, with the final Test starting on March 7.

India extended a proud winning record at home to 17 successive Test series against an England side who have relied on a rookie spin attack after Jack Leach’s tour-ending injury in the opening match.

“We didn’t have a chance in hell of even competing with India but even that wasn’t an easy win for India and I think they would admit that,” Stokes told the BBC.

India’s spinners proved too much for England

(Getty Images)

He added in his press conference: “We always still felt in the game. Even with 30 runs left we knew that if we went bang-bang, all the pressure was back on India. I’m proud of how everyone stuck at their task even if their role was just to be a fielder. That’s what I want from everyone, to never give up because you never know where a game is going to go.

“It’s always disappointing being on the losing team. Obviously we want to win every game we play and win every series. You can have it all taken away from you at the click of a finger so why not enjoy every opportunity to play and make sure you are doing it with a smile on your face regardless of what is happening.”

James Anderson bowled a three-over spell but was off the field for much of the fourth day while Ollie Robinson was unused as Stokes stuck with frontline spinners Bashir and Hartley and part-timer Root. Stokes revealed no risks were taken with Anderson because the 41-year-old was feeling tightness in his quadriceps, having sent down 94 overs in three successive Tests.

“Jimmy’s fine,” Stokes added. “There was no chance he was going to bowl at all in the (rest of the) game. You look at risk v reward, there’s not too much reward from Jimmy being out in the field if he’s got a pretty tight quad after playing three back-to-back Test matches in India.”



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