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Stokes echoes Botham and offers brief respite on another tricky day in India | Tanya Aldred
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Stokes echoes Botham and offers brief respite on another tricky day in India | Tanya Aldred


In a game full of important moments, we anticipated the achievement, but it wasn’t Jimmy who reached it. Instead of his 700th Test wicket, he achieved his 198th.

This is coming from a unique 32-year-old with fiery hair, not a peculiar 41-year-old with bleached hair, finally back with the ball in his possession.

During a challenging day for England, with a looming 4-1 series loss and India’s first innings poised for a strong start, Ben Stokes surprisingly took the ball for the second over after lunch.

It had been a while since you last remembered he was capable of it, forcefully driving the pistons into the ground. However, those in India who were following along on the tour had witnessed him practicing on the field and becoming more vigorous.

He tossed a couple of practice deliveries, adjusted the field, and approached the crease in his usual confident manner. He looked to be in excellent form. This was his first ball in 251 days, since the Ashes Test at Lord’s last July. He had a disappointing World Cup and underwent knee surgery in November, where a bone spur was removed and his meniscus was reinforced with stitches. He had promised the doctors he wouldn’t bowl on this tour, but he went back on his word – though it was too late to affect the outcome of the series, it lifted the team’s morale.

What a way to achieve it, the initial delivery swerved slightly from a decent distance, brushing the top of Rohit Sharma’s off-stump. The batsman, on a score of 103, looked back, perplexed, and let out a small grin before walking off, angrily nudging his foot as he crossed the boundary line. On the balcony, Brendon McCullum covered his mouth with his hands and exchanged a look with Paul Collingwood. On the field, Zak Crawley also covered his mouth and patted Ben Stokes, who for the most part, walked away with a sense of disappointment.

The situation bore similarities to another talented all-rounder from England who had also returned to bowling after a break. However, this time it was due to a suspension of 63 days for smoking marijuana. During the final Test of that season, Ian Botham began his run-up with his trademark peroxide mullet and tight trousers. He bowled a somewhat unremarkable ball, which was easily caught by Graham Gooch at second slip, prompting Gooch to ask, “Who writes your scripts?”

Jimmy Anderson celebrates with Ben Foakes after taking the wicket of India’s Shubman GillView image in fullscreen

Botham surpassed Dennis Lillee’s record of 355 Test wickets shortly after, but due to weather conditions, the match ended in a draw. Stokes’s potential for impressive performances may still hold surprises, but on this particular day, England only had a brief period of dominance. In the following over, Anderson achieved his 699th wicket, ultimately winning over Shubman Gill, who had boldly hit a six back over his head.

After the departure of the two century scorers in the morning session, Stokes and Anderson put pressure on the new players Devdutt Padikkal and Sarfaraz Khan for 30 minutes. However, the inexperienced Indian players persevered and ultimately, were able to increase their score. However, Stokes made a mistake by dropping a caught and bowled chance, although it was a no-ball, and also missing a catch that would have been Shoaib Bashir’s fifth wicket on the Dharamsala field.

Steven Finn, known for his friendly demeanor, was observing Ben Stokes in the TNT studio. Finn, who has undergone three surgeries on his knee, spoke about how challenging it is to return to the same level as before after such a procedure. However, he praised Stokes for his performance, noting that there was no slack in his front knee, which is a key aspect to look for in a bowler.

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As India’s lead extended to over 250, it appears unlikely that England will be able to achieve anything in this match except for a day off to trek in the Himalayas.

However, Stokes’ presence on the team significantly improves their performance with the ball. He thrives when he is actively involved in the game, excels as a batsman when he is also bowling, and leads with more confidence when he is in high spirits.

Although he is considered an expert batter in India, he has not been successful. However, he still has one remaining chance to perform.

Regarding Anderson, there are two remaining wickets in India’s innings for him to achieve the milestone. Unless he has plans to face West Indies at Lord’s in early July.

Source: theguardian.com