Ind vs Eng: Ben Stokes opens up after first series defeat as captain

The tourists find themselves 3-1 down despite securing victory in the first Test

By Web Desk
February 26, 2024
England were defeated despite dominating the first two days of the fourth Test. - AFP

England captain Ben Stokes expressed his "pride" in his team despite a five-wicket loss in the fourth Test, which resulted in a series defeat in India.

The tourists find themselves 3-1 down despite securing victory in the first Test and having chances to win the remaining three.

India has extended their unbeaten home record to 12 years, handing Stokes his first series defeat as captain.

"The 3-1 score doesn't look great, but the way in which we've come at India is what I'm most proud of," said Stokes.

"This young, inexperienced team has been successful over the past two years, but coming to India is a completely different beast, something that this team has not been exposed to."

Needing 192 for victory, India faced a spirited England comeback on the fourth day in Ranchi.

The host team found themselves at 100-3 and 120-5, but an unbroken partnership of 72 runs between Shubman Gill and Dhruv Jurel secured India's 17th consecutive home series triumph.

"We didn't have a chance in hell of even competing with India, but even today that wasn't an easy win for India and I think they would admit that," Stokes told BBC Sport.

"I'm very proud of the way every player has thrown everything at India. No-one has ever taken a backward step."

England were defeated despite dominating the first two days of the fourth Test.

India made a comeback from 177-7 in their first innings, thanks to Ollie Robinson's pivotal drop of Jurel, who scored 90.

Despite having a 46-run lead in the first innings, England were dismissed for a mere 155 in their second innings, falling victim to the exceptional spin skills of India's Ravichandran Ashwin, Kuldeep Yadav, and Ravindra Jadeja.

"Cricket is always skill against skill," said Stokes. "Ashwin, Jadeja and Kuldeep and the conditions we found ourselves in against them were very, very challenging.

"When India have a sniff in conditions like that, any team is going to find it hard to not only keep the scoreboard ticking but rotate the strike. You've got to give them a lot of credit for the way in which they bowled in very favourable conditions. On this occasion, their skill was better than ours."

Even with a modest target to defend, England had the opportunity to pull off a remarkable win when Shoaib Bashir took two wickets in as many balls after lunch on Monday, only for Gill and Jurel to compile their match-winning stand.

"We took wickets in clusters, and even with 30 runs left we knew that if we went 'bang, bang' all the pressure was back on India," said Stokes. "I still believed we could win the game."

Off-spinner Bashir, 20, was playing in only his second Test. After taking five wickets in the first innings he hinted at bowling England to victory in the second.

Meanwhile, left-arm spinner Tom Hartley, also playing in his first Test series, is the leading wicket-taker on either side with 20 victims.

"Before a ball was bowled in this series, there were a lot of question marks around the two selections," said Stokes.

"They'll be able to leave at the end of this tour with their heads held very high. We've got more exciting talent which is a great thing for English cricket."

There is a break of more than a week before the fifth and final Test in Dharamsala begins on 7 March.