James Anderson may be calling time on his Test career in July but the England great says he would be open to a coaching role in future.

England's all-time leading wicket-taker Anderson will end his storied red-ball career after the first Test against West Indies on July 10. 

Anderson's 700 wickets in 187 Tests are the most by any pace bowler in history but the 41-year-old will bow out as Brendon McCullum's England look to plan for the future.

The Lancashire bowler's farewell international appearance will come at Lord's in the first of three Tests against West Indies, though Anderson suggested a move to the backroom staff could be a possibility.

"I feel excited about what the future might hold, whether that is potentially to stick around with the team this summer in a different sort of capacity, it would be nice," Anderson told the BBC's Tailenders podcast.

Reports emerged on Friday that McCullum is planning for the long term as he looks to reshape England's bowling attack, with the announcement confirmed a day later.

England will be looking to build a team capable of claiming back the Ashes in Australia across 2025-26 and Anderson acknowledged that task may have proved too great.

"It was sort of just looking ahead and could a 43-year-old me make the Ashes in 18 months' time and we sort of came to the decision that probably not," he added.

"From my point of view, it feels like a stretch at this stage of my career and from their [England's] point of view there are 15 or so Tests before the Ashes.

"It gives them time to give other guys Test matches and experiences before that. It feels like the right thing for me and the team going forward. It feels like a good time."

Anderson says he will play for Lancashire before his Test farewell at Lord's, though plans remain unclear on his commitment to the county side after that.

"I am not 100 per cent set on what I am going to do next," he continued.

"That will be a conversation down the line and see what they [Lancashire] want to do and if I have the desire and willingness as well."

As for that final time in England whites, Anderson wants to sign off in style.

Ahead of the West Indies meeting, the England bowler is third on the all-time list of Test wicket-takers behind spinners Muttiah Muralitharan of Sri Lanka and Australia's Shane Warne.

"Nearer the time and around that Test different emotions will start rearing their head," he said. "Right now I am happy with everything.

"I am glad I get to play cricket again. I am looking forward to playing for Lancashire, playing that first Test, having fun on the field and remembering why I started playing the game.

"I would like to end it as I started it, loving bowling, showing my skills and helping the team win."

James Anderson has announced he will retire from Test cricket in July.

The 41-year-old, who is England's all-time leading wicket-taker, will call time on his glittering red-ball career after the first Test against West Indies on July 10. 

Anderson's 700 wickets in 187 Tests are the most by any pace bowler in history, and he has retained a key role in Brendon McCullum's team, playing four of England's five Tests in India earlier this year.

However, McCullum is reportedly planning for the long term as he looks to reshape England's bowling attack, and on Friday it emerged he had held talks with Anderson regarding his future.

Anderson's farewell appearance will come at Lord's in the first of three Tests against West Indies, before England take on Sri Lanka in another three-match series in August and September.

In a statement posted on Instagram, Anderson said: "Just a note to say that the first Test of the summer at Lord's will be my last Test.

"It's been an incredible 20 years representing my country, playing the game I've loved since I was a kid. I'm going to miss walking out for England so much. 

"But I know the time is right to step aside and let others realise their dreams just like I got to, because there is no greater feeling.

"I'm excited for the new challenges that lie ahead, as well as filling my days with even more golf. 

"Thank you to everyone who has supported me over the years, it's always meant a lot, even if my face often doesn't show it. See you at the Test."

Rehan Ahmed is relaxed about his potential opportunities over the coming months after enjoying every minute of England duty this winter.

Leicestershire leg-spinner Ahmed became the country’s youngest ever men’s Test player in 2022 when he claimed a five-wicket haul on debut against Pakistan in Karachi, but had to wait a further 14 months for another shot at red-ball cricket for England.

The teenager relished the prospect of doing battle with India and picked up 11 wickets across three Tests.

 

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Ahmed, 19, is refreshed and ready to go again but has not set himself any major summer targets despite a T20 World Cup being on the horizon along with home Test series against West Indies and Pakistan.

“I’m not really fussed about what I’m trying to achieve this year,” Ahmed insisted when asked about the prospect of a home Test debut this summer.

“I’ve tried to do as much as I can within myself. So, whether that’s me getting my overs in, me getting as many runs as I can, because I love my batting and I’ve underperformed; I want to bat better.

“There’s a couple of things I really want to work on and if that takes me there, that takes me there.

“And if it doesn’t, and the balance of the teams is not right and whatnot, there are loads of things to take into account.

“I’ll be playing county cricket straight away. Leicester comes first when I’m not playing for England. I didn’t know if I wanted to play because I wanted a break, but I’ve had two weeks off and I just want to play again.”

Ahmed was part of a novice three-man spin-attack alongside Tom Hartley and Shoaib Bashir that flourished at times in India, but there are concerns over the number of overs the trio will get during the opening months of the domestic season.

However, the 19-year-old is not about to make any outlandish demands to his Leicestershire coaches over his bowling or batting role in a team-comes-first mentality that clearly owes much to Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum.

He added: “It’s not a case where I come in and bat where I want.

“Obviously I’ve not been here all winter. The lads have been working hard so they deserve it first, so if I make the team and I play, then hopefully I’ll get a bat.

“Bowling in matches is something I’ve lacked a bit. I’ve bowled a lot in white-ball, not heaps of overs in red-ball plus it’s April, going to be nipping round corners.

“I don’t expect to bowl loads of overs because if the seamers are getting wickets, they are getting wickets and the team comes first, but I’ll be bowling loads in training.”

Ahmed is also sure to be bouncing ideas off new buddy Bashir, who may struggle for overs at Somerset, after the pair struck up a close bond during the India tour.

“Bash was unbelievable to be with.  He made the made the trip so (much) fun for me,” Ahmed revealed.

“And his confidence was different level and that’s something I love to see because that’s exactly like how I was as well, we just kept bouncing off each other. It was great.

“I think the way Bash came into the game. Even with Harts coming in, the way I came in, it gives hope for everyone else as well.

“It doesn’t mean you have to bowl a load of overs in the champo and focus on swing and seam.  You just need to be different and be committed to it.”

Zak Crawley insists England will not adopt a “negative” approach after their recent 4-1 series defeat in India but acknowledged they must learn when to absorb pressure.

India inflicted the first series loss of the Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum era after they stormed back from going one down in Hyderabad to win the last four Tests in comprehensive fashion.

It sparked debate over England’s aggressive ‘Bazball’ style following a string of batting collapses and head coach McCullum accepted they had to refine their style moving forward.

Crawley said: “We always talk about absorbing pressure and putting pressure back on.

“The last couple of years we’ve done the putting pressure back on pretty well and we’ve spoken about maybe picking those moments to absorb at the right times as well. We can certainly refine that.

“That’s not to say we’re going to get more negative. We will still try to play the way we have and try to score quickly but yeah, picking those moments where they’re on top and we need to absorb.

“Or even the other way where they’re on top and you feel like you need to put it back on. It is just getting it right.

“(Stokes) spoke about it after the series where we need a little bit of refinement. It is not big changes.

“We just need to make sure we stay positive and don’t let a tough result get in the way of what we’re done really well over the last couple of years.”

England’s strategy of moving the game forward quickly with higher run-rates and early declarations took the cricket world by storm as they won 10 of their first 11 Tests under Stokes and McCullum.

However, seven defeats have followed from the next 12 matches and a lack of a ruthless streak has cost England at times.

After England posted a first innings total of 353 in the fourth Test in Ranchi, they reduced India to 177 for seven but let the hosts off the hook and, instead of setting up a series decider, they crumbled to a crushing five-wicket defeat.

“We genuinely believed in ourselves and thought we could win the series,” Crawley, speaking at a sponsors event for Swiss watch brand Rado, the England and Wales Cricket Board’s official timing partner, admitted.

“We should have won in Ranchi, I think, to make it 2-2 and then you never know how the last one goes.

“When the series goes like that, it is always hard to wrestle the momentum back but we were in the series massively and we always believed.

“We certainly weren’t in the games when I was in India last time (in 2021), so we gave ourselves a good chance and we weren’t quite clinical enough like they were.

“Over five days, their skills are always going to come out and they are a phenomenal team. It was a really enjoyable tour though, we gave it a good crack and there is a lot to learn from.”

A beacon of light again for England was Crawley, who for the second series in a row led the scoring charts for his team.

The Kent batter was notably labelled as a player whose “skillset is not to be a consistent cricketer” by McCullum in 2022.

 

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A string of low scores increased the external noise around his position prior to last summer’s Ashes but the 26-year-old always retained the faith of England’s key decision-makers.

Now, 12 months on, Crawley has hit seven 50+ scores and averaged 46.7 against the two best attacks in the world, which included a sensational 189 at Old Trafford last July.

“I feel in a lot better place than I was,” Crawley added.

“I’m not trying to put too much pressure on any games to be honest. When I am playing for England or for Kent, I just try and turn up with the same process.

“I am trying to embrace failure more and accepting it is part of the game and sticking with what I do well.”

England batter Ollie Pope is “itching” to play again after reflecting on the mistakes he made during a frustrating tour of India as an individual and a team.

Pope starred in a remarkable first Test win in Hyderabad with a sparkling 196, but failed to go beyond 39 in his next eight innings and was out for a pair in Ranchi.

It was a similar story for a number of his team-mates with India able to win the final four Tests comprehensively to inflict the first series defeat of the Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum reign.

The series marked Pope’s return to action after he dislocated his right shoulder during the Ashes last summer.

While the 26-year-old spent most of the winter on the road, he was back training for Surrey on Monday and is eyeing plenty of Vitality County Championship runs before the home Test series with West Indies in July.

“Straight back into it – our choice. I feel pretty fresh,” Pope said at a sponsors event for Swiss watch brand Rado, the England and Wales Cricket Board’s official timing partner.

“Obviously I had that seven months out and leaving that India tour, if I had scored another three 70s or something, I might be feeling slightly differently but I almost feel frustrated.

“I feel like I’m in really good nick without putting together those scores, so hopefully I can go and find that rhythm of putting together big scores… at three, unless Stewie (Alec Stewart, Surrey director of cricket) drops me!

“I might miss one in that first seven or eight games, but yes, I’m itching to get back and just scoring runs and representing Surrey.”

 

England should play the long game with Jofra Archer and prime him for India’s visit next year as well as the 2025/26 Ashes, according to former fast bowler Steve Harmison.

Archer’s last Test was more than three years ago, but he remains a much-coveted asset and England are hopeful he will be available for their T20 World Cup title defence in the Caribbean in June.

Harmison, though, believes the next two marquee five-Test series against India in the summer of 2025 then in Australia the following winter should take priority above all else where Archer is concerned.

“It’s slowly but surely with him,” Harmison told the PA news agency. “I’d build Jofra Archer up to play in 10 Test matches over the next two years – five against India and five against Australia or four each.

“I’d treat him like a prize racehorse. If England can keep him fit for the majority of those two series, I’d feel as though they have got a chance of winning.

“If he can play in Test matches in between and his body is holding up then everything after that is a bonus.”

Archer has had a succession of stress fractures in his bowling elbow and another in his back since his most recent red-ball appearance for England, while his last professional appearance was 10 months ago.

He joined England in Barbados before Christmas during their white-ball tour of the West Indies and took part in some bowling drills as part of his rehabilitation from the latest setback in his right elbow.

Just a couple of days afterwards, Archer, who was awarded a two-year central contract in October, blindsided England by playing for his old school side in the Barbados Cricket Association league.

But Harmison feels it could be better for everyone involved if the 28-year-old is allowed to get back to full fitness away from prying eyes.

“When I heard he was playing in that game in Barbados, I was over the moon, I just wish he had told (England’s managing director of men’s cricket) Rob Key first,” Harmison said.

“If he turns up for the T20 World Cup, fantastic, if he turns up for a Test match this summer, fantastic, but the most important thing for me is about his mental health and making sure he’s in a position to play cricket without thinking, ‘In however many weeks, I’m going to be injured again’.

“The more he does the bowling repetition and the muscle memory stuff under less scrutiny and less pressure, the better it will be for him coming back into top-level cricket.”

England have won three and lost six of their last 10 Tests against India and Australia and, in both series, there were instances where Ben Stokes’ side let promising positions slip.

After India sealed a 4-1 triumph in Dharamsala on Sunday, England head coach Brendon McCullum admitted they were too “timid” in passages and said their ‘Bazball’ style would be refined.

Harmison, who criticised England’s lack of a warm-up match before the series, expects them to rebound with six wins out of six against the West Indies and Sri Lanka this summer, but he insisted there must be lessons learned from what happened in India.

“They’ll win all six Test matches comfortably,” said Harmison, who played 123 times for England between 2002 and 2009. “It’s not a case of looking at just the summer, they’ve got to look beyond that.

“They’ve got to be smarter in identifying situations. We’ve got some cricket brains leading this team, but sometimes inside that dressing room, we might have individual characters who are happy to say, ‘That’s the way we play’, and that’s not good enough for me, it’s not acceptable.

“They have to be more accountable when they make mistakes. This is not the Dog and Duck, this is Test match cricket.

“Having the crutch of, ‘That’s the way we play, it’s Bazball’. No, Bazball is giving you the freedom to be the best version of yourself possible. You’ve still got to play the situation.”

Brendon McCullum will seek to fine-tune England’s approach before the summer after admitting they went into their shells during a chastening tour of India.

England head coach McCullum and captain Ben Stokes won 10 of their first 11 Tests in charge but have lost seven of the last dozen following a 4-1 reverse in India.

McCullum and Stokes have shown a resistance to making adjustments since taking charge but they let several competitive positions slip against Rohit Sharma’s side, demonstrating a lack of ruthlessness.

McCullum did not go into specifics about how England go to the next level ahead of home summer series against the West Indies and Sri Lanka but accepted there were instances where they seemed unsure of themselves in India.

“India probably outplayed us at the style of cricket that we want to play and made us start to retreat a little bit so that’s something that we will have to change,” McCullum said.

“If anything we got more timid as the series went on. It is something we need to address because other teams will put us under pressure as well and we can’t really allow that doubt to creep into our game. We need to have total conviction in what we are doing in those pressure situations.

“We will allow the dust and hurt to settle a bit and then use that to make changes we need to ensure we are a better version of what we have started out as.

“We will have some time to reflect and come back bigger, stronger and more refined.”

McCullum and Stokes have allowed players the freedom to express themselves and that, in turn, has brought accusations there are not enough honest conversations in difficult moments.

But McCullum said: “While we’re both very relaxed and happy to make sure everyone’s enjoying themselves – they’re excited to play in big series and not anxious as such and trying to let their talent come out – let’s not mistake that for us not having a hard edge.

“We didn’t get where we’ve got to in life and in our careers without having some sort of hard edge as well.”

McCullum was similarly dismissive of the suggestion batters are not under enough pressure for their spots following several collapses in recent weeks, but added those on the fringes must make compelling cases.

“At this stage, these are the guys we believe are the best cricketers to win a series,” McCullum said. “If it doesn’t play out, of course if someone is nagging down the door you look at that.

“Certainly nothing is closed to anyone, it’s just that you have to bang the door down.”

After an innings-and-64-run defeat in Dharamsala inside three days, Stokes defiantly warned “write this team off, write me off at your own peril”.

He averaged 19.9 with the bat but made a heartening return to bowling in the last Test and should be back to being a fully-fledged all-rounder by the summer.

“I actually think he wanted it too much with the bat,” McCullum said of his captain. “He was trying to give himself every opportunity to build a big innings to ensure when the pressure moments came, which he knows how to deal better than anyone else in the world, that he was going to be the man to be there.

“It takes us away from being totally present in the moment. He tried his best and wanted it too much but he’ll be back.

“To have him back in full operation is a huge positive for us and moving forward allows us to know we can balance the team in the right way.”

Ben Stokes declared “write this team off, write me off at your own peril” after his England side ended their tour of India with an abject defeat inside three days in Dharamsala.

James Anderson becoming the third bowler and first non-spinner to reach 700 Test wickets on Saturday was relegated to secondary status by England’s meek batting display as they lost by an innings and 64 runs.

A fourth successive defeat and seventh in 12 Tests was confirmed within just eight sessions of play, with England on a downward slide after winning 10 of their first 11 under Stokes and Brendon McCullum.

The duo’s methods have come under scrutiny during a 4-1 series defeat and Stokes has underperformed, averaging 19.9 with the bat, but the England captain was bullish about his team’s future prospects.

“Not just myself but the team are big enough to say we’ve been completely outplayed in the last four games,” Stokes said. “I’m always man enough to say we got beaten by the better team.

“Failure is a great teacher to sports teams. You either let failure and disappointment eat you up and shoot you down or you learn from failure and you make sure you don’t lose the enthusiasm of what we do.

“This series shouldn’t affect anything we’ve managed to achieve before this tour. It’s the first time, particularly these last four games, that this team has been dominated pretty much the whole time.

“We will use this as inspiration to become a better team and to become better players. I am obviously disappointed with my performance, but write this team off, write me off at your own peril.”

While Joe Root made 84 before he was last man out, he lacked a useful foil as England were skittled for 195, needing 259 to make India bat again, as Ravichandran Ashwin banked five for 77 on his 100th Test.

England have reached 400 just once in this series – in their famous triumph in Hyderabad in the opener – and what has been billed as an attack-minded mantra under this leadership has been questioned.

“The media name ‘Bazball’ – everyone says, ‘what is it?’ – in my opinion it’s wanting to be a better player,” Stokes said.

“In the face of defeat and failure, ‘Bazball’ will hopefully inspire people to become better players and become even better than what we are.

“I think we’ve done a lot of things right. One thing India have done is stay true to what makes them successful. We have done that but not been able to execute how we’d like to.

“Whenever we managed to wrestle back any type of momentum with the ball or bat, India were always able to then put it back on to us. That was where the Tests after the first one were won and lost.”

Stokes, who played his 100th Test in Rajkot, refused to make any excuses at the end of an anticlimactic few months for England in all formats. As well as this defeat, they were knocked out of the Cricket World Cup at the group stage and lost both ODI and T20 series in the West Indies.

“If we we weren’t disappointed, if we weren’t frustrated at how the series has ended up, I don’t really know what other emotions you could have,” Stokes said.

“Use it as fuel. I always feel like I can’t work any harder, but I’ll come away from this tour and go home and work even harder than what I have done out here for the summer coming up.”

Anderson, with his father in the crowd, finally joined Muttiah Muralitharan and Shane Warne in the 700 club. The 41-year-old spent several months in the 690s but the moment came when Kuldeep Yadav hung out his bat and edged through to wicketkeeper Ben Foakes.

“He doesn’t play the game for the milestones, he plays for his team-mates and England,” Stokes added. “He’s just an unbelievable ambassador for the game and in particular fast bowling.

“If someone came up to me and said who should I emulate if I want to be a good fast bowler, the first name I’d say is Jimmy Anderson.”

England’s tour of India ended in abject fashion as they were hammered by an innings and 64 runs inside three days, with not even James Anderson’s 700th Test wicket masking another batting capitulation.

Anderson became the third bowler and first non-spinner to reach the milestone on the third morning of the fifth Test, dismissing Kuldeep Yadav early on, but India’s lead of 259 at the halfway stage was ominous.

While Joe Root amassed 84, Ravichandran Ashwin ran amok on his 100th Test with five for 77 as England were all out for 195 in 48.1 overs in Dharamsala for a seventh loss in their last dozen Tests.

Ashwin was disruptor-in-chief, taking five wickets as England lurched to 113 for six then 141 for eight and even though Root battled away, his efforts were in vain.

India run out 4-1 series winners and while England had their moments in the first four Tests, they have been outclassed inside eight sessions at the picture-perfect HPCA Stadium in the Himalayan foothills.

The writing has been on the wall since England collapsed from 175 for three to 218 all out on the first day and, Root excepted, there were signs of scrambled minds from the batters on a relatively blameless pitch on Saturday as they succumbed to a heaviest innings loss of the Ben Stokes-Brendon McCullum era.

Ben Duckett had not ran down the wicket to the spinners in this series and had never done so against Ashwin. But perhaps a lack of trust in his defence led to him advancing to Ashwin and toe-ending on to his stumps in the second over.

The pressure told on Zak Crawley after 15 dot balls as he turned his 16th delivery to close-in fielder Sarfaraz Khan while Ollie Pope made a chancy 19 before premeditating a sweep which took a top edge and ballooned to Yashasvi Jaiswal as England’s top-three were sent packing by Ashwin inside 10 overs.

Root was busy and Jonny Bairstow purposeful in a 56-run stand off just 50 balls. Bairstow muscled three leg-side sixes in the space of seven Ashwin deliveries but Jasprit Bumrah, deputising for India captain Rohit Sharma being off the field, simply shuffled his pack and was rewarded.

Kuldeep produced a three-card trick, with two googlies negotiated before a ripping delivery that spun back in and rapped Bairstow on the pad. Encouraged to review by Root, Bairstow started trudging off for 39 off 31 deliveries long before ball-tracking confirmed his fate on his 100th Test.

Root seemed unperturbed by what was unfolding at the other end and helped England beyond three figures with a gorgeous drive for four off Kuldeep but Stokes fell to the final ball of the morning session.

Stokes’ batting returns have dwindled in this series and his dismissal for two was his fourth single-figure score in a row, outfoxed by Ashwin’s arm ball and bowled through the gate. It was the 13th time the England captain has been dismissed by Ashwin in 17 Tests. No one has more success against him.

Still 156 short of making India bat again, the writing was on the wall as Root and Ben Foakes resumed after lunch. Foakes went for an uncharacteristic slog sweep and saw his bails dislodged as Ashwin, whose family in the stands were on their feet, raised the ball to celebrate his five-for.

Tom Hartley made 20 but was deceived by a slower delivery and lbw to Bumrah, whose toe-crushing yorker two balls later meant a pair in the match for Mark Wood.

Root went to fifty with a flick for four off Bumrah and continued on his merry way, finding some support from Shoaib Bashir, who was bowled for 13 by Ravindra Jadeja and tried to review, unaware his timbers had been disturbed.

With only Anderson for company, Root went on the charge and holed out off Kuldeep to complete England’s misery 10 minutes before tea.

The morning started brightly for England as Anderson, with his father in the crowd, finally joined Muttiah Muralitharan and Shane Warne in the 700 club. The 41-year-old spent several months in the 690s but the moment came when Kuldeep hung out his bat and edged through to Foakes to depart for 30.

Anderson soaked in the congratulations of his team-mates at his historic moment held the ball aloft in a typically low-key celebration.

India added just four to their overnight total as they were all out for 477, Bumrah the last to go for 20 as Bashir claimed five for 173 from 46.1 overs. Anderson wanted Bashir to lead England off the field before the pair walked off together.

Jonny Bairstow admitted becoming the latest member of England’s 100 Test club means a “hell of a lot” after being joined by close family and friends this week to mark the occasion in Dharamsala.

Bairstow is set to become the 17th Englishman to reach the prestigious milestone when the fifth Test against India starts on Thursday and could not wish for a more picture-perfect setting than the HPCA Stadium, which features stunning views of the Himalayan snow-capped mountains in the background.

Several of his nearest and dearest, including mother, sister, partner and infant son, have flown out to celebrate alongside Bairstow, who recognises the magnitude of the occasion.

 

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Unlike England captain Ben Stokes, who remarked in Rajkot earlier in the series of his own 100th Test being “just a number”, Bairstow intends to embrace every moment in what he anticipates will be an emotional week.

“It means a hell of a lot,” said Bairstow, well-known for wearing his heart on his sleeve. “Every young kid that sets out on a journey playing professional cricket wants to try and play 100 Test matches.

“You look back to 2012 when I made my debut at Lord’s, if 12 years later you’d said I’d be playing 100 Test matches, you’d snap your hand off for one but also pinching yourself as well.

“It’s great to have my family out here, it’s an amazing place to come, they’ve come to some pretty cool places along the way as well. It’s a special occasion for everyone who has been there on the journey.

“It will be an emotional week. I’m proud, you know what I’m like, I’m an emotional guy – so get the tissues ready! It’s a special week for me like it was a special week for Ben a few weeks ago.”

Bairstow, who coincidentally registered his 100th ODI appearance at the same venue, made his Test debut in May 2012 and has gone on to enjoy several giddy highs in the whites as well as a few crushing lows.

He amassed the most runs by a wicketkeeper in a calendar year in 2016 and lit the touchpaper for the Stokes-Brendon McCullum era with four jaw-dropping centuries in five innings in a stunning 2022.

But he had to rebound from a badly broken leg at the back end of that year while his place has seemed under relentless scrutiny. Having yet to pass 40 in four Tests in this series, there has been speculation he might be overlooked in the summer with Harry Brook to come back into the England side.

 

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As for whether he can cash in on his landmark appearance in England’s final assignment on the tour of India, who took an unassailable 3-1 lead last time out in Ranchi, Bairstow was sanguine.

 

“It would be nice,” said Bairstow. “Like in every game, you put your best foot forward.

“No matter what it is, I’ll be going out there, chewing my gum, puffing my chest out and trying to have a good time with the other 10 blokes out there.

“Whatever the situation is, we’ll be going out there with smiles on our faces, like we have done in the whole series.”

A chillier climate has greeted England in the foothills of the Himalayas and a couple of players were in their thermals in training on Tuesday morning, with conditions akin to the early English summer.

There has been speculation at England altering the balance of their bowling line-up, with the most recent match on this wicket in India’s domestic first-class competition four weeks ago showing all 36 wickets fell to seam.

“I’ve probably batted the worst I have all trip,” said Bairstow of his net session. “But the whole trip I’ve been happy with how I’ve been moving, I’ve been in the zone the whole way.”

England’s last visit here was blighted by concerns about the outfield ahead of a World Cup group game against Bangladesh last October, but Bairstow is satisfied there will be no issues this time.

“The transition that has been made to produce something like that has been amazing,” Bairstow added. “It’s absolutely stunning here.”

Brendon McCullum admitted it would be “slightly mad” if the progress Tom Hartley and Shoaib Bashir have made on England’s tour of India was stymied by a lack of opportunities at county level.

The spinning duo were uncapped at the start of the trip and held modest first-class records, albeit from small sample sizes, but Hartley is the series’ leading wicket-taker with 20 dismissals in four Tests and Bashir took a maiden professional five-for in Ranchi.

But Lancashire signing Australia star Nathan Lyon this summer places a question mark over how much game time Hartley will get and Bashir is second choice at Somerset to Jack Leach, who will have surgery on a knee injury which ended his tour early and allowed the rookies to shine on the international stage.

While McCullum acknowledged Lancashire and Somerset have their own interests to consider, England’s head coach hopes Hartley, 24, and Bashir, 20, will not fade away in the months ahead.

“We’ve got to keep trying to get cricket into them,” McCullum said. “Whatever opportunity we can we’ll try and give it to them because there’s two guys there more than good enough for international cricket.

“They’re tough characters. We’ve seen both of them have big hearts. It doesn’t get any harder than it is right now and they’ve both stood up and performed so we’ve just to keep giving both of them chances.

“It will be a slight frustration of ours if they weren’t given opportunities at county level. There’s a very real possibility that might be the case.

“But without wanting to dictate to counties because they have their own agendas, when you see performances like we have out of those two bowlers throughout the series, I think you’d be slightly mad if you didn’t give them more opportunities in county cricket.”

England losing by five wickets in Ranchi leaves them 3-1 down with just the final Test in Dharamshala, starting Thursday week, with McCullum suffering the first series defeat of his reign.

There have been just four wins in their last 11 Tests but McCullum is convinced England are a superior team than the one he inherited in May 2022, which had triumphed just once in their previous 17 matches.

“We weren’t quite good enough when it mattered – or India were better, to be honest, than us being not quite good enough,” McCullum said.

“We’ve lost this series and we didn’t win the Ashes (last year) but we’re a better cricket team than we were 18 months ago and we’ve got opportunity in the next 18 months to do some pretty special s***.

“Time on the tools, experience and just keep chiselling away at any of those rough edges which creep up every now and then, which is natural, and we’ll get there eventually.”

McCullum confirmed Jonny Bairstow will play in his 100th Test next week, despite not reaching 40 in the series, but there is scrutiny over seamer Ollie Robinson following a disappointing return to action.

Robinson registered an important fifty in his first competitive appearance since July last year but while pace has never been his biggest asset, he struggled to reach 80mph on the speed gun and sent down six no-balls – taking his career tally to 77, which is one more than his haul of wickets in 20 Tests.

His drop of Dhruv Jurel was a key moment, allowing India to move to within 46 of England’s total after the first innings, while Robinson was not called upon to bowl as the hosts chased 192 to win by five wickets on Monday.

McCullum explained Robinson, who has an impressive Test average of 22.92, felt a twinge in his back, which he has struggled with in the past.

“Everything he did leading into the Test match suggested we’d see not just the Ollie Robinson we’d seen previously but a better version of it,” McCullum added.

“He’s not just as disappointed as everyone else, he’s the most disappointed out of everyone. It’s just sport right? You have great expectations and sometimes you’re not quite able to deliver.”

Zak Crawley insisted there was never any doubt “phenomenal” Joe Root would return to form for England following his unbeaten century against India.

Root came into the fourth Test having not reached 30 in the series while a couple of uncharacteristic dismissals recently led to scrutiny on whether he should tailor his methods to fit the ‘Bazball’ philosophy.

The argument has been Root does not need to alter his approach and he put his lean patch behind him with a more traditional Test innings to amass 106 not out as England went to stumps on 302 for seven.

The 33-year-old rescued England after they had slipped to 112 for five in a helter-skelter opening session on a cracked Ranchi pitch and Crawley believes the Yorkshireman is the only batter who could have dug the tourists out of the fire.

“He’s probably the only bloke in our team who could have done that knock, he’s that good and he’s stepped up when we needed him to,” Crawley said.

“He’s a phenomenal player. We fully expected him to get a good score at some point in this series. He was due, he’s the best player we’ve ever had and he played phenomenally.

“We’re so happy for him and we never doubted him. If anything we know that when he’s got a couple of low scores he’s even more likely to get the big one, and we expected that from him.

“He deserves everything he gets, he works so hard at his game and he always comes good.”

Root’s 31st Test hundred – brought up off 219 balls, the slowest century by any England batter under the leadership of Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum – was marked in understated fashion as he kissed the badge on his helmet and raised his bat to team-mates who were celebrating enthusiastically on the dressing-room balcony.

There was no sign of the reverse ramp he had gotten out to in Rajkot, which proved a sliding doors moment in England’s heavy defeat as they went 2-1 down in the five-match series, while conventional and reverse sweeps were rare occurrences.

Root was unbreachable in defence, judicious off front and back foot and unfurled his customary late cuts and leg glances behind square, while there was also the odd cover drive.

Crawley, though, insisted a surface offering early movement and uneven bounce throughout dictated Root’s more classical innings, rather than widespread criticism he has faced in the last few days.

“If the pitch had been truer, I reckon he would have still played those shots,” Crawley said.

“It might have just been the variable bounce which stopped him sweeping and paddling, it wasn’t really the pitch for that kind of thing; it was too inconsistent.

“In Dharamshala (which will host the fifth Test), it’s a flatter wicket, I’d fully expect him to reverse ramp one. That’s just Joe. He’s very present when he bats and doesn’t overthink too much.”

England went at 4.63 an over in the morning thanks to counter-attacking knocks from Crawley, who made a run-a-ball 42, and Jonny Bairstow’s 38 off 35 deliveries.

But the tricky surface, rather than a brain fade, was largely responsible for England’s precarious position at lunch, with Crawley bowled twice by Akash Deep, the first off a no-ball, as the India debutant bagged a three-wicket haul.

While the odd one still kept low, batting conditions improved upon the resumption as Root and Ben Foakes (47) combined to put on 113 to stabilise the tourists.

Crawley hopes England’s seamers can make similar inroads with the new ball but anticipates spin to dominate for the remainder of the match.

“I got out still fairly early but it looked like it wasn’t bouncing anywhere near as much or as quickly as earlier on against seam,” Crawley added.

“It got harder against the spin, it will continue to break up. It might be a new-ball wicket, hopefully it is when we bowl but the I think the spin’s only going to get harder.”

England have put an emphasis on height in selecting seamer Ollie Robinson and off-spinner Shoaib Bashir for the fourth Test against India on a pitch expected to offer turn and variable bounce.

The surface in Ranchi was described on Wednesday by Ben Stokes as “like nothing I’ve ever seen before” 48 hours before the start of the Test, with cracks running down one side of the cut strip.

After a second inspection on Thursday alongside head coach Brendon McCullum and selector Luke Wright, England captain Stokes elected to keep faith with two seamers as Robinson partners James Anderson.

Robinson and Bashir are both well over 6ft and the bounce they can extract has earned them the nod over skiddier pair Mark Wood and Rehan Ahmed as England look to hit back from a heavy defeat in Rajkot.

“We get asked about the pitch and we give our opinion but that doesn’t mean we are going in with too many preconceived ideas,” Stokes said. “The pitch could be as flat as a pancake, who knows?

“If it is, we will adapt to that. We do like to look at the pitch two days out and one day out, because that’s how we like to pick our XIs. Looking at that, I think there is going to be assistance for spin.

“But I think also it looks like someone like Bash, who releases the ball from such a high release point, the extra bounce that he gets we feel is going to bring us more into the game.

“I also feel having two seamers gives us a good chance purely because of Ollie Robinson’s release height and his relentlessness with his areas.”

The selection of Robinson, who has not played competitively since the third Ashes Test in July, and evergreen Anderson may lessen the need for Stokes to resume his career as a fully-fledged all-rounder.

Despite reporting no soreness after a 35-minute spell of bowling full tilt on Wednesday, Stokes was coy about if he would give his side, trailing 2-1 in the five-match series, another seam option.

“I’ve pulled up really well,” Stokes told the BBC. “It’s another step forward for me in terms of the ball. As keen as I am to get there, I do have to be very sensible about it.”

Bashir took four wickets in his debut for England in the second Test in Visakhapatnam before bring dropped in Rajkot but he partners slow left-armer Tom Hartley as the tourists’ two main spinners.

That means no room for Ahmed, who played in the first three Tests and took 11 wickets at an average of 44, although Stokes insisted the young leg-spinner’s absence was no reflection on how he has performed.

“He’s gone out and tried everything that we’ve asked of him,” Stokes said. “The way in which he has taken the game on with the ball is something I’ve been very, very impressed with.

“I think he’ll take a lot of learnings out of these three games, which will only progress his career, rather than not being the person who bowled in that situation, if that makes sense.”

Despite bowling 38 overs in the 434-run loss in Rajkot and just four days’ rest between the end of the third Test and start of the fourth, Anderson retains his spot.

Anderson needs just four more wickets to become the first fast bowler in history to reach 700 in Tests and Stokes marvelled at the 41-year-old’s professionalism and longevity.

“If you’re a young fast bowler, Jimmy Anderson is the one person who you want as your role model,” Stokes added. “Not only the amount of wickets he’s got but the fact he can keep going at his age.

“Even saying approaching 700 Test wickets as a fast bowler is incredible. He’ll know that but I don’t think that will be at the top of his mind for this week, just because of where we’re at in the series.”

Ben Stokes is poised to resume his status as an all-rounder and boost England’s bowling options on a pitch expected to be the most spin-friendly on the tour of India.

Stokes will wait to see how his body reacts to a demanding 35-minute spell of fast bowling in training on Wednesday before deciding if he will send down any overs in the fourth Test, starting on Friday in Ranchi.

He has not bowled competitively since early July and initially had no plans to do so in this series after surgery in November to have stitches in his meniscus and a bone spur removed from his left knee.

Indeed, Stokes had made a “pinky promise” with England’s physiotherapist Ben Davies not to bowl in India but that looks increasingly likely to change with his side 2-1 down in the five-match series.

“Whatever way we decide to go, (if) I feel I am capable of bowling, I will bowl,” said the England captain, who added he would buy Davies a beer if he broke his vow.

“I think there is a possible chance but I will just have to wait and see how everything is.

“I wanted to get a long spell in to see how everything coped whilst doing it then see how I pull up. It is all good at the moment. That is the longest I have bowled in six months.

“Before I went and had the surgery I was told 12-13 weeks before I could start bowling. I am two weeks ahead of that and I am quite far ahead, but there are things I have to think about other than my knee.”

Stokes returning to bowl allows England to have two seamers in their XI and select three frontline spinners in Tom Hartley, Rehan Ahmed and Shoaib Bashir, as well as the part-time offerings of Joe Root.

The playing surface in the Jharkhand capital 48 hours out from the first day of the penultimate match has cracks running down one side of the cut strip, which a bemused Stokes admitted he has never encountered before in India.

The evidence points to a wicket which will offer lavish spin but there may be some variable bounce as well which could aid the quicks as England look to bounce back from a heavy defeat in Rajkot.

“It just looked interesting,” said Stokes, echoing the observation England vice-captain Ollie Pope made a couple of hours earlier.

“If you looked down one side of opposite ends it just looked different to what I am used to seeing, especially out in India.

“It looked green and grassy up in the changing rooms but then you go out there it looked different, very dark and crumbly and quite a few cracks in it.”

One or both of James Anderson and Mark Wood could make way after their heavy workloads in Rajkot, which might mean a first appearance of the series for Ollie Robinson, who has not played competitively since the third Ashes Test last July.

Robinson, who averages 22.21 in 19 Tests, can move the new ball both ways, while his use of reverse swing on the predominantly lifeless pitches of Pakistan last winter caught the eye.

“He’s got unbelievable skills to be a successful bowler anywhere in the world,” Stokes said.

“He has worked incredibly hard while he has been out here. Not playing the first three Tests can be tough and disappointing but I’ve told him he has been a great example of doing the right things and waiting your turn if it comes.”

England’s attacking methods came in for some flak after a 434-run loss last time out but Stokes and head coach Brendon McCullum are resisting calls from some ex-players to tinker with their approach.

“You get plaudits when it goes well and a bit of s*** when it doesn’t,” added Stokes, when asked if he was surprised by some of the criticism. “It’s part of it, I’ve been around long enough to know that but we crack on.”

England will get a break from Jasprit Bumrah in Ranchi as India rest their star paceman for the fourth Test which starts on Friday.

The world’s number one-ranked Test bowler did not travel with the India squad as the two teams moved from Rajkot to the Jharkhand capital on a charter flight on Tuesday afternoon.

Bumrah has been the only frontline fast bowler from either side to be an ever-present in the series so far and there is just a four-day turnaround between the end of the third Test and start of the fourth.

It was widely reported that Bumrah would miss out in Rajkot after his starring role earlier this month in Visakhapatnam, where a nine-wicket match haul helped India level the series.

Bumrah featured in the third Test but had a more understated role with just one wicket in each innings on a flat pitch as India claimed victory by a record 434-run margin to move 2-1 up with two to play.

Despite being without several regulars in this series, including Virat Kohli because of personal reasons and injuries sidelining Mohammed Shami and Rishabh Pant, India have opted to rest Bumrah this week where conditions are again unlikely to be in his favour.

Batter KL Rahul will sit out again having missed the third Test with a quad injury.

“Jasprit Bumrah has been released from the squad for the 4th IDFC First Bank Test against England in Ranchi. The decision was taken keeping in mind the duration of the series and amount of cricket he has played in recent times,” a Board of Control for Cricket in India statement read.

“Meanwhile, KL Rahul is ruled out of the fourth Test. His participation in the final Test match in Dharamsala is subject to fitness.

“Mukesh Kumar, who was released from the squad for the third Test in Rajkot, has joined the squad in Ranchi.”

Bumrah is the leading wicket-taker in the series with 17 dismissals at a stunning average of 13.64 and it is thought the more seam-friendly conditions in Dharamshala – the venue for the fifth Test – will be much more to his liking.

England head coach Brendon McCullum anticipates a wicket which will turn as they take a step into the unknown later this week at the JSCA International Stadium Complex.

The venue has played host to just two Tests, the most recent in October 2019 where India beat South Africa by an innings and 202 runs, while England’s only previous visit to Ranchi was 11 years ago in an ODI.

Joe Root is the only survivor from that match in the current England squad. The Yorkshireman has struggled with the bat in the past few weeks, yet to reach 30 in six attempts although he has had a more prominent bowling role, sending down 107 overs so far.

Asked if Root could shuffle down the batting order by a place or two to make allowances for his extra workload, McCullum insisted the idea has not been discussed between him and captain Ben Stokes.

“I haven’t thought about it,” McCullum said. “I think Joe wants to be in the game. He’s totally invested in where this team wants to go. You see him on the field: he’s constantly going up to Stokesy.

“He’s incredibly invested. He spent a lot of time with his team-mates working in the nets on stuff as well. He wants a bigger role that he’s obviously offering. Honestly, I think Joe will be absolutely fine.”

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