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Ben Stokes hails ‘greatest away Test win’ as England stick together in adversity

Ben Stokes praised the selflessness of his revived England team after an extraordinary performance in the first Test at Rawalpindi, in which they overcame a pre-match bout of illness, a relentless pitch and stiff Pakistani resistance from the final day to seal it what he described as “one of England’s greatest away test wins”.

In front of an elated crowd at Pindi Stadium, Jack Leach claimed Naseem Shah’s last wicket with around eight minutes of daylight remaining as England – in their first Test in Pakistan in 17 years – recorded only their third win in the country. in 25 attempts, and their first since another famous fight in the waning light in Karachi in December 2000.

“It’s just unbelievable,” said Stokes in the post-match presentation. “We’re pretty speechless in that dressing room. The hard work and toil everyone’s put in over these five days really hits everyone. Jimmy Anderson said he was a bit emotional so he had a guy with almost enough 180 Test matches [176] that feeling at the end of this is proof that we’ve accomplished something really special this week.”

The scenes at the end of the Test were a far cry from the chaos beforehand, with England so ill on the eve of the match that officials from England and Pakistan even met to consider a 24-hour postponement for the start. It was finally decided on the morning of the match to go ahead as planned, but not before Will Jacks was called up for a debut shortly before the coin toss, after Ben Foakes failed to recover in time.

“There are some things you can plan for but some you can’t, and obviously that’s what happened to the squad a few days before the test match,” said Stokes. “It seems like a long time ago when we were running around wondering if we were going to start the test match on time, so I have to give a big compliment to the group of players for coming out a bit below par.” weather.”

Jacks eventually became an unexpected star with the ball, claiming six wickets in the first innings after a tour-ending injury to Liam Livingstone put a greater burden on his offspin, while Ollie Pope not only spent a century at number 3, but also put a successful display as the substitute wicket-keeper, with his seven catches including a crucial one-handed take down the leg side to knock out Zahid Mahmood in the thrilling closing stages.

“The crowd here this week has been amazing… the reception we received when we left the field victorious in Pakistan was very special.”

Ben Stokes greets support in Rawalpindi

“You could go through this whole test match and point out key players,” added Stokes. “But what we’ve been dealing with when we came in makes this one a little bit better. We’ve got some broken bodies in that dressing room, but to see the lads rushing in like that today… as captain it’s great to see I Don’t think I’ve seen a group of players willing to put their bodies on the line for the other 10 guys on the pitch.”

However, Stokes himself played an important role in the team ethic. He put his own body on the line in a critical 11-over spell of reverse-swing on the final afternoon, and committed to the attacking pitches that saw England maintain their remarkable record of claiming ten wickets in each of the 15 innings they have. bowled since he became a full-time captain.

However, the collective buy-in from England’s batsmen was perhaps the most resounding endorsement of Stokes’ leadership, as they bought into his relentless attacking approach which produced an unprecedented match score of 921 runs off 821 balls in their two innings.

“I’m not going to lie, I’ve looked pretty far ahead of how this could turn out,” Stokes told Sky Sports at the end. “From day one we had to score these runs quickly. It would be a batting error that the batsman would get on this wicket because there was no swing, no spin. So we really had to capitalize on that.

“And then as the Test match progressed it was all about somehow getting the game into a position on day five where both teams were able to win the game because I think there a little carrot dangling, with that statement, played to our advantage and gave them a little sniff.”

No batsman embodied the buy-in better than Harry Brook, who not only scored an 80-ball hundred in the first innings of his second Test, but then sacrificed a chance to go even better than that in the second innings, when he was bowled for 87 off 65 balls while trying to set up play on the fourth afternoon.

“Those two innings were incredible to watch,” said Stokes. ‘He could have driven himself to a hundred, but we still had about half an hour until tea break. we doubt that, because that’s how we wanted to go into day five. We don’t want people turning off the TV because that could be the inevitable draw.

“The selflessness with which he went out and played with… the freedom, the way he expressed his talent was absolutely incredible. He’s one for the future. It’s always one of those hard things, you don’t want to starting to talk someone up too much, but Harry has everything, including in all formats. I don’t think too many players in their second test match showed the ability of what Harry showed there.”

After eight Tests in charge since the start of last summer, Stokes and England head coach Brendon McCullum have now led seven wins and one defeat, and each of those wins has been achieved in exciting, entrepreneurial fashion that has earned England team status. which until the end of the Caribbean tour last spring had won only one of the previous 17.

“With myself and Brendan at the helm, we focus more on ourselves than on the opponent,” said Stokes. “We always tried to take the positive path, whether it was bat or ball in hand, and tried not to doubt what the opponent had to offer.

“We know we are a very exciting team and we wanted to come to Pakistan, and continue our mantra of exciting cricket, and give ourselves the best chance of winning a Test match. I have no interest in a draw, has the dressing room has no interest in playing for the draw.”

And as England left the field in the fading light, Stokes added that the cheers of the Rawalpindi crowd, who had flocked to witness a thrilling finish, made all their efforts worthwhile.

“The crowd here this week has been amazing, and I’m not going to lie, the reception we got as we walked off the field as winners in Pakistan was very special. I hope everyone in Pakistan who came to watch this game appreciated it the cricket that was played, of course not only from us, but also from Pakistan.”

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket

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Merry

Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

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