Ben Stokes says England will play with ‘freedom’ despite big loss

England captain Ben Stokes plays a shot during the third day of the third Test cricket match against India

England captain Ben Stokes plays a shot during the third day of the third Test cricket match against India. Photo: Punit Paranjpe/AFP

Published Feb 18, 2024


England captain Ben Stokes said on Sunday his batsmen will look to better execute their performance and "not temper" their attacking approach, despite their huge defeat to India in the third Test.

England's batting faltered in both innings at Rajkot and were bundled out for 122 on day four, while chasing 557 for victory.

They went down by 434 runs for their second-biggest Test loss since their 562-run defeat to Australia in 1934.

The tourists began day three on 207-2 in response to India's 445, but collapsed to 319 all out, conceding India a crucial lead of 126 runs.

Pundits slammed England's aggressive "Bazball" brand of cricket, and urged the team to alter their approach on slow and turning Indian pitches.

Stokes, speaking after his landmark 100th Test, rejected that.

"I don't think we need to temper anything," he said, saying it was not the tactic that was wrong, but rather the performance.

"Was it how we executed the shots that led to our downfall?" he added.

"And a lot of us would say; 'Yes, I didn't execute well enough.'"

Stokes said he had confidence in his players.

"Our batting line-up is full of international class players," he said. "We give them the freedom to play what's in front of them."

'Winning this series'

Joe Root's dismissal after attempting a reverse scoop on day three remained a talking point.

"I think we can leave the decision-making and 'why' with Joe," Stokes said.

"I can understand why there would be frustration around that because of how good a player Joe is."

Root extended his batting flop in the second innings, when he fell lbw to Ravindra Jadeja to manage just 77 runs from six innings.

It was a far cry from his previous prolific run-scoring, which has earned him 11,493 in 138 matches.

Root has bowled 107 overs with his off-spin in the absence of injured Jack Leach, but Stokes said the bowling workload is not affecting his senior batter.

"I think that would be a cop-out thing to say: you ask Joe that and he would say 'absolutely not'," said Stokes.

"He loves having the responsibility of bowling and influencing the game," he added.

"By no means do I think him bowling more overs is the reason as to why he's not getting the runs he would like to."

England, who won the opener by 28 runs to hand India just their fourth Test loss since 2013, will have their back to the wall when they head for to Ranchi for the fourth Test starting Friday.

"Weeks like this are hard," said Stokes, adding his players had to make "sure that all the emotion, all the disappointment" in the dressing room stays there.

"We've got two games left, and all I'm thinking about as a captain is winning this series 3-2", he said.