Ben Stokes described batting conditions across England’s Test series in India as the hardest he has faced in his career but admitted that their first-innings total of 205 in the fourth and final Test in Ahmedabad felt some way below par.
“Early on it was pretty apparent we weren’t going to get anything like we did on day one in the last Test,” he said, referring to the devilish turner his team faced during last week’s defeat at the same venue. “This morning and this afternoon it was more bounce that was the issue, and as the day got older the ball started to spin a little bit more, but overall it’s a much better wicket than it was the last game we played here, so we’re just disappointed not to still be batting. We wanted to go out and play a certain way as a batting group, but our execution let us down today.”
Stokes was England’s best performer with the bat, scoring 55 off 121 deliveries before being trapped lbw by Washington Sundar and joining Dom Sibley, Dom Bess and Jack Leach among the victims of the kind of non-turning spin deliveries that had so befuddled them in the third Test. “I’m disappointed that I managed to get myself in on that wicket and then get out,” he said. “Fifty is never going to win you a Test match. I spent two and a half hours protecting myself from the ball that skids on, and eventually got out to one that skidded on, so I was disappointed with myself.”
Since the first innings of the first Test no England batsman has averaged more than 24.5, and while disappointing 205 was still their second highest innings total of the series. “I’ve played 70-odd games now and these are the hardest conditions I’ve faced as a batsman,” Stokes said. “It’s not about coming together as a group and saying: ‘Right, this is what we need to do better.’ It’s about how we can go away from this as individuals and when we come back next time, how do we progress as individual batsmen.
“Everyone approaches the game in a different way – I’ve got a gameplan out here which is completely different to Joe Root’s, which is completely different to Dom Sibley’s – but if the outcome of those gameplans is that we score runs [in the future] then happy days.”
Early in Stokes’ innings a conversation with his then batting partner, Jonny Bairstow, was interrupted by the India captain, Virat Kohli. Stokes refused to reveal the subject of the ensuing discussion but insisted that there was no reason for anyone to get excited by it. “A lot gets said these days when two guys seem to come to words out in the middle,” he said. “It was completely nothing untowards, just two blokes who care about what they do, and two guys who definitely don’t back down.”