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Ben Stokes praises England's incredible comeback in India as their greatest achievement.
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Ben Stokes praises England’s incredible comeback in India as their greatest achievement.

Following an impressive win by 28 runs over India in the initial Test in Hyderabad, thanks to debutante Tom Hartley’s exceptional seven-wicket performance, Ben Stokes was firm in his belief that this was England’s best showing during his two-year tenure as captain.

Given India’s streak of 11 years of dominance at home and the strong performance of their attack, it was difficult to argue. This victory marked England’s 14th win out of 19 under the leadership of Stokes and their coach, McCullum. It was supported by Pope’s impressive score of 196 and Hartley’s dismissal of India for a total of 202 runs. In the end, the home team was left with a target of 231 runs in the fourth innings.

“This is definitely the No 1 win since I have been captain,” Stokes said. “We’ve been part of some ­amazing games, had some incredible victories. But considering where we are and who we were playing against, the position we found ourselves going into our second innings, I feel this is our best since I’ve been captain; our greatest triumph.”

The mentioned situation was dangerous, with England trailing India by 190 runs at the halfway mark of the game and facing a potential loss when they reached a score of 163 for five. However, thanks to Pope’s leadership in guiding the lower-ranked players, England was able to score 420 runs before lunch on the fourth day and avoid a loss, preventing India from taking a 1-0 lead.

Stokes stated that he has had the opportunity to participate in many Test matches in the subcontinent alongside Joe Root, and he has witnessed some remarkable performances from him. However, in light of the challenging circumstances we faced, Stokes believes that the shots Root played were exceptional. In his opinion, it was the most outstanding innings by an English batsman in India.

Although Pope altered the course of the journey, it was Hartley who guided England back home on the fourth day after lunch. Despite being overpowered on the first evening, where Stokes persisted to his own detriment in terms of runs, and Leach’s difficulty with a knee injury, the 24-year-old left-arm bowler from Lancashire stepped up for his captain.

“He may not have achieved his desired outcome on the first day, but I was determined to give him an extended opportunity,” stated Stokes. “I cannot say for certain if this was a significant factor in his seven-wicket haul. However, it serves as a reminder to others that if you make promises or statements, you must back them up with your actions.”

This is my first experience as captain in India. Although it may not be apparent, I am highly attentive to the game. I gained valuable insights from our first time on the field, as well as observing the techniques of the Indian spinners. I made an effort to incorporate those lessons into our second innings.

“I am extremely excited. Hartley’s debut resulted in nine wickets being taken, while Ollie Pope returned to the game after surgery. The team has put in an amazing effort.”

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Stokes was similarly returning after an operation, with the left knee that went under the knife before Christmas passing its first ­significant test. This included his run-out of the dangerous Ravindra Jadeja on the fourth ­evening, Stokes sprinting, diving and ultimately nailing the stumps with a remarkable reverse‑flicked throw.

Jadeja may be a potential concern for the second Test in Visakhapatnam on Friday, as he experienced discomfort in his hamstring while exiting the field. Likewise, Leach is expected to face difficulties despite continuing to bowl through the discomfort of a haematoma in his left knee and achieving one successful breakthrough during the climax.

Shoaib Bashir has at least arrived in the country in reserve, the 20‑year‑old Somerset spinner ­joining England on Sunday following his drawn-out visa complications.

Source: theguardian.com