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Maybe, maybe not: Ben Stokes keeps bowling role ambiguous ahead of Fourth Test Against India

Due to issues with his knee, Stokes has been playing only as a batter since the second Ashes Test last June

PTI Ranchi Published 22.02.24, 04:30 PM
Ben Stokes

Ben Stokes File photo

Bowling full tilt at nets raised hopes of Ben Stokes rolling his arms over in the fourth Test against India but the England captain on Thursday preferred to keep the suspense over his availability as a bowler here.

Due to issues with his knee, Stokes has been playing only as a batter since the second Ashes Test last June.

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However, he was seen bowling extensively at the nets on the eve of the fourth Test.

Asked about the possibility of him bowling in the match, Stokes said, "Nah, I think it's maybe, maybe not." Stokes said going in with two pacers is the best option for England, forcing them to include the tall Ollie Robinson in the playing XI, even though the Ranchi track is likely to assist the spinners.

"Bringing Robbo (Robinson) in gives us good options, especially looking at this wicket," Stokes said at the pre-match media interaction.

"I feel like the spin will be assisted, but I also feel having two seamers gives us a good chance purely because of Ollie Robinson's release height and his relentlessness with his areas." The 30-year-old Robinson, who last played in the Ashes, has come at the expense of Mark Wood, while Shoaib Bashir replaced leg-spinner Rehan Ahmed.

"You look at the player Mark is, especially with the ball, you want someone like that operating at 100 per cent.

"His number one skill is how fast he bowls and the effort he put in last week was monumental. You want to be able to keep players like that on the field operating at that level.

"We do like to look at the pitch two days out and one day out, because that's how we like to pick our XIs. You want to give yourself some idea or some indication about what XI you think is going to give you the best chance.

"Looking at that, I think there is going to be assistance for spin, but I think also it looks like someone like Bash (Bashir), who releases the ball from such a high release point, the extra bounce that he gets, we feel, is going to bring us more into the game."

'Don't prejudge the pitch too much'

Stokes added spice to the talks on Ranchi pitch, saying he has not seen anything remotely like the 22-yard strip here in the past. But he also stated that it's not fair to have "preconceived ideas" about the pitch.

"We get asked about the pitch and we give our opinion, but that doesn't mean we are going in with too many preconceived ideas. The pitch could be as flat as a pancake, who knows.

"If it is, we will adapt to that. If it does more than we think it will, we will adapt to that as well. We won't let those conversations seep into what we do." England have retained old warhorse James Anderson who is seven shy of reaching the landmark 700 wickets and become the first pacer to achieve the feat.

The 41-year-old has bowled 73 overs in two matches in the series and taken six wickets.

"If you're a young fast bowler, Jimmy Anderson is the one person who you want as your role model. Not only the amount of wickets he's got but the fact that he can keep going at his age.

"Especially over the last two years, he's also introduced new ways of operating. We've seen him commit to bowling bouncers, we've seen him bowl around the wickets to right handers, use the skills when the conditions need that.

"Even saying approaching 700 wickets as a fast bowler is incredible but I don't think that'll be at the top of his mind this week just because of where we are in the series," he concluded.

Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by The Telegraph Online staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.

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