Ben Stokes, the captain of the England cricket team, expressed mixed emotions after the fourth Ashes Test against Australia at Emirates Old Trafford ended in a rained-out draw.
Despite a dominant performance by England throughout the game on the first three days, persistent showers on days four and five prevented them from pushing for a victory, resulting in Australia retaining the Ashes urn with a 2-1 lead heading into the final Test at The Oval.
Stokes, who has led England in 16 Tests, had an impressive record of 12 wins and four defeats before this drawn encounter – the first time under his captaincy.
Speaking about the match, he stated, “We did literally everything we possibly could. The weather didn't help us, and we can't change that. It's a tough pill to swallow, knowing that's the reason we sit here with a draw, but we've done everything we possibly could in the hours of play we managed to get.”
The all-rounder highlighted the team's determination to press hard and never shy away from taking risks. He took pride in his fellow players' approach to the game, stating that they always put their best foot forward. England's resilience and performance throughout the hours of play were indeed commendable, leaving Stokes feeling proud as the leader of the team.
In this fourth Test, England had dominated from the outset, amassing a significant lead of 275 runs in the first innings after bowling Australia out for 317. Their batting display was nothing short of brilliant, racking up an impressive total of 592 in 107.4 overs. Heading into the final day with Australia struggling at 211 for five in their second innings, England had a genuine chance of securing a victory.
Ben Stokes compared his emotions after this drawn Test to those experienced after England's defeats in the first two Tests at Edgbaston and Lord's.
He emphasized that this time, there was no lingering feeling of “what could have been” as they had performed “pretty much perfectly” throughout the match. From bowling out Australia to scoring runs at a rapid pace, Stokes believed the team had played an almost flawless game.
Although the draw dashed England's hopes of winning the Ashes series outright, they can still deny Australia a first away series win since 2001 by clinching a victory in the final Test at The Oval. Stokes recalled a similar situation in 2019 when England had to win at The Oval to draw the series against Australia. He stressed the importance of staying positive and playing with the same winning mentality, aiming for a result that would end the series in a 2-2 draw.
Ben Stokes speaks on the legacy he is building
Reflecting on England's legacy under his captaincy, Stokes acknowledged that a decider at The Oval would have been “a very, very special week in the history of English cricket.”
However, he believes that his team has already accomplished wonders for cricket in England. The support they have received from fans throughout the series has been immense, and Stokes expects that same level of enthusiasm in the final Test. That said, he believes there are bigger things England are onto with their Bazball approach and highlighted it.
“When you look back at the cricket that was played, we did everything we possibly could,” Stokes said. “Regardless of what we did we would have ended up in the same situation. I think anyone who is going to question the declaration in this game probably doesn't understand the game as well as we do.”
“We've become a team that have been so unbelievably well followed and we will live long in the memories of those who have watched us,” Stokes said. “As much as I would love to be an Ashes-winning captain, I want this team to be a legacy team. And regardless of what happens over the next period, this 18 months will go down in history as one of the most exciting and proactive teams to go out there and represent England.”
While the drawn fourth Ashes Test left England feeling a tinge of disappointment, Ben Stokes remains proud of the team's performances under his leadership. Their unwavering commitment to playing positive cricket and striving for victory has left a lasting impact on the sport in England according to him. As they prepare for the final Test at The Oval, Stokes and his men are determined to leave a mark by ending the series on a high note.