Stokes may regret attacking Ashes approach, says England great Gower

By Sports Desk August 08, 2023

Ben Stokes may regret his attacking approach to the Ashes after what England great David Gower sees as a missed opportunity.

England have transformed their red-ball fortunes under captain Stokes and coach Brendon McCullum, winning 13 of their 18 Tests after embracing a free-flowing, attacking mentality in the longest format.

An Ashes series victory proved a challenge too great, though, with England recovering from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 – a result that saw Australia retain the urn.

Stokes' tactics have come into question, with England's insistence on attacking sometimes their downfall, and Gower believes the all-rounder may look back with slight regret.

Gower told Stats Perform: "Stokes says that he doesn't want to worry about hindsight, which doesn't win you any games and all the rest of it.

"But there will be thoughts along those lines, because when they look at it next year, it says 2-2 and you were part of that team that could have regained The Ashes.

"Stokes could have been At The Oval, with that little urn in his hand saying I have regained the Ashes or you better say 'we' with this team ethic.

"That would be there again for all to see for the rest of history. But I'm afraid it’s not quite the case."

While Gower suggested Stokes may reconsider his plans at a future date, the former England captain still hailed the new approach against the red ball.

He added: "My view is a mixture of old and new. I love the new approach, especially the culture that Stokes and McCullum have bred in the team since that partnership came together last year.

"I'd imagine that playing in that dressing room must be an enormous pleasure because it takes the pressure off a bad day, takes the pressure off failure, and it encourages people to look ahead.

"The one thing that could have made this series different is being slightly more match aware, slightly smarter at key moments.

"England could have made more runs in the second innings at Edgbaston, put themselves further ahead, played Australia a little bit further out of the game made it harder for them to win the game. In the end, Australia win the game.

"England could have batted like Stokes did at Lord's when the bouncer barrage was coming, Stokes took the blows to the body, and others played shots that got them out.

"There was a collapse from 180 for none, as it were, suddenly were 200 for plenty. And things like that change games in Test cricket.

"Five-day cricket is all about sustaining the effort and the quality throughout, but a bad hour or a bad session can cost you games and that's what happened at Lord's."

A high-quality Ashes series was likely only robbed of a winner due to the rain at Old Trafford, where the fourth Test was washed out on the weekend with England in the ascendancy.

Australia return Down Under with the urn but Gower believes – despite the thrilling encounters – both sides may look back with some sense of a missed opportunity.

He continued: "I think for both teams, at the end of the series, Australia looked a bit muted, because although they retained the Ashes, they struggled in the last three games. 

"Australia would have rued the fact they let things slide a little bit, at the same time I'd give all the credit to England, for the way they played their cricket to put the pressure back on Australia. 

"It was interesting to watch the Australians, they had a very brief celebration in front of the crowd at The Oval but it wasn't sort of leaping up and down saying we've held the Ashes.

"You don't do laps of honour when you've drawn a series, you do laps of honour at the MCG when you have won The Ashes Down Under. Graeme Swann and the sprinkler and all the rest of it.

"It was probably almost a feeling of, actually, we've put everything on the field. They put everything into that series, both sides.

"At the end of it, not so much a relief but a sort of acknowledgement, that 2-2 is probably fair. You sit down and you feel relief, it's a shame that it's all over.

"People would have loved to see this thing, carry on almost you play 10 Tests, keep up the intensity, keep up the rivalry. But there's also a sort of sense of well, it's over now.

"You cast your mind back to all the ups and downs of six, seven weeks of high-pressure cricket."

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