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.”

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

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

While there has been no definitive confirmation Bumrah will miss out, he 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, it seems India will leave out Bumrah this week where conditions are again unlikely to be in his favour.

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.”

England gave India a leg up in the absence of Ravichandran Ashwin as Joe Root’s ugly dismissal sparked a dramatic collapse on the third day of the third Test in Rajkot.

Ashwin’s bombshell withdrawal from the Test the previous evening because of a family emergency meant India could only replace their premier spinner with a substitute fielder, depleting their bowling.

But they found their guests in obliging mood as Root’s patented reverse ramp off Jasprit Bumrah was brilliantly caught by Yashasvi Jaiswal, and a position of 224 for two became 319 all out.

Root was far from alone from contributing to his own demise, with Ben Duckett (153) and Ben Stokes (41) also guilty of loose strokes, as England surrendered a 126-run first-innings deficit before India swelled their advantage to 170 after going to tea on 44 for one.

Root partly atoned by making the breakthrough when India batted again, dismissing Rohit Sharma lbw when the home side’s captain missed a sweep. Umpire Joel Wilson’s not out decision was overturned but England still have a lot of work to do in the final session to swing back a bit of momentum.

The tourists’ profligacy drew parallels with last year’s Lord’s Ashes Test, where England were on 188 for one in reply to 416, with Australia minus spinner Nathan Lyon due to injury, before a succession of rash shots saw them skittled for 325.

England’s attacking brand under Stokes and Brendon McCullum is well-known but the match situation did not require a bold gambit from Root at the outset of a day where conditions grew increasingly sapping.

Duckett’s swaggering century had carried England to 207 for two from just 35 overs and, seeking to stay on the front foot, Root’s attempt to up the ante merely flew to second slip where Jaiswal held on excellently.

Root, who dropped Rohit Sharma in India’s first innings which cost 104 runs, was out for 18 which means he has failed to pass 30 in five innings in this series.

Root’s dismissal was put into harsher context when Jonny Bairstow was plumb lbw after Kuldeep Yadav found sharp turn. It was the Yorkshireman’s eighth duck against India and no other batter in history has made more.

Duckett lacked the fluency that had brought him an 88-ball hundred the previous evening but still moved to 150. However, he added just three off his next 12 deliveries which might explain why a batter so accustomed to feeling bat on ball chased a long hop from Yadav and toe-ended to cover.

Stokes, in his 100th Test, and Ben Foakes came through an exacting period, especially from Kuldeep, who bowled 12 overs unchanged with Ravindra Jadeja curiously unused until just before lunch.

Stokes was judicious off front and back foot and looked primed to mark his milestone Test in fashion but was suckered into a slog sweep off Jadeja, with Bumrah running back to take the catch.

Foakes fell for 13 next ball after pushing at Mohammed Siraj, albeit the ball sticking in the pitch a little, with those two dismissals the start of England losing their last five wickets in 38 balls and their final three in nine. Siraj bounced back from his mauling off Duckett to take four for 84.

England gave India a leg-up in the absence of Ravichandran Ashwin as Joe Root and Ben Duckett gifted away their wickets on the third morning of the third Test in Rajkot.

Ashwin’s bombshell withdrawal from the Test the previous evening because of a family emergency meant India could only replace their premier spinner with a substitute fielder, depleting their bowling.

But they found their guests in obliging mood as Root’s patented reverse ramp, with which he has had success in the past, off Jasprit Bumrah was brilliantly caught by Yashasvi Jaiswal at second slip.

After Jonny Bairstow fell for a record-breaking eighth duck against India, Duckett, who had batted with panache in an incredible counter-attacking 88-ball hundred on day two, toe-ended a Kuldeep Yadav long hop to cover for 153 as England lurched from 224 for two to 290 for five at lunch.

Memories of England burning themselves in last year’s Ashes Test at Lord’s – when several batters were caught hooking despite the absence of injured Australia spinner Nathan Lyon – came flooding back.

Captain Ben Stokes (39 not out) on his 100th Test and Ben Foakes (6no) survived some testing moments but England still trail by 155 runs on a pitch that is offering more assistance to the bowlers.

India used just three bowlers for most of the morning with Ravindra Jadeja, back from a hamstring injury sending down an over before lunch.

Before that, Bumrah and Mohammed Siraj dovetailed at one end with Kuldeep operating from the other.

Wickets had fallen early in each of the two previous days but the breakthrough on Saturday owed more to a rash stroke from Root rather than skill from Jasprit Bumrah. The match situation did not require a bold gambit but Root’s attempt to up the ante merely allowed India to get their tails up.

Root’s dismissal for 18 means he has failed to pass 30 in five innings in this series while he has been dismissed nine times in 21 innings by Bumrah.

Root’s dismissal was put into harsher context when Bairstow was plumb lbw after Yadav found sharp turn, with the Yorkshireman burning a review. No other batter in history has made more ducks against India than Bairstow.

Duckett was not as authoritative as the previous evening and gave the slightest of chances on 149, with Rohit Sharma getting a fingertip to an edge, before the left-handed opener moved to 150 off 139 balls.

He added just another three off 12 deliveries, which perhaps contributed to his eyes lighting up when a short and wide delivery was offered by Kuldeep but Duckett horribly miscued.

India spinner Ravichandran Ashwin has withdrawn from the third Test against England in Rajkot because of a family medical emergency.

Ashwin became just the ninth bowler in history and second Indian after Anil Kumble to reach 500 Test wickets on Friday when he dismissed Zak Crawley in the final session of the second day.

However, just a few hours after the close of play, the Board of Cricket for Control in India announced Ashwin had immediately pulled out of the squad and his availability for the last three days is unknown.

“In these challenging times, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and the team fully supports Ashwin,” read a statement from the BCCI secretary Jay Shah.

“The BCCI extends its heartfelt support to the champion cricketer and his family. The health and well-being of the players and their loved ones are of utmost importance.

“The board requests respect for the privacy of Ashwin and his family as they navigate through this challenging time.”

A tweet from BCCI vice-president Rajeev Shukla added: “Wishing speedy recovery of mother of @ashwinravi99. He has to rush and leave Rajkot test to Chennai to be with his mother”

Ben Stokes has had an air of indifference at playing in his 100th Test but the England captain was “pretty emotional” at receiving his cap in a behind-closed-doors presentation.

England players typically hold a team huddle on the outfield before play to commemorate landmark appearances but Stokes this week described joining the 100 Test club as “just a number”.

In keeping with Stokes’ philosophy about personal milestones, his cap presentation took place in England’s dressing room before the opening day of the third Test against India in Rajkot got under way.

England assistant Paul Collingwood was tight-lipped about what he said to Stokes before handing over the cap but thought his former Durham team-mate was touched by the sentiments expressed.

“It was a real honour to be asked to present the cap in the first place,” Collingwood said.

“I’ve known Ben since he’s been a young whipper-snapper at Durham. It was great just to say a few nice words.

“It was just to really applaud what he’s achieved in his career so far, it’s certainly not coming to an end – hopefully he’s got another 100 Test caps in him.

“From the team’s point of view, it was to thank him for what he’s done and just the way he pushes the boundaries all the time and fills every player and member of coaching staff with confidence.

“It’s a great moment for him, I’m sure he’ll not be overly bothered about 100 Test caps but you could see once I was speaking he was pretty emotional to receive that cap.”

With the series level at 1-1 and resuming after a 10-day break, England made a terrific start as the recalled Mark Wood found the edges of Yashasvi Jaiswal and Shubman Gill to leave India on 33 for three.

Some early morning moisture aided England’s bowlers but as sun beat down on the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium, the pitch flattened out and Rohit Sharma and Ravindra Jadeja capitalised.

Rohit made 131 after being given a reprieve on 27 when Joe Root shelled a tough chance, which would have left India on 47 for four, while Jadeja contributed a princely 110 not out on his return from a hamstring injury at his home ground as India finished an engrossing day on 326 for five.

Wood eventually got reward for his short-ball plan by snaring Rohit to finish with three for 69 while he ran out Sarfaraz Khan with a fantastic direct hit from mid-on.

“Woody has good skill with the new ball, he can nip that around and swing it,” Collingwood said.

“But on flat pitches, you need something, be it a leg-spinner who can turn it both ways, or extreme pace.

“They are usually things that break those partnerships and give you an edge. You want a point of difference on these types of pitches.

“I thought we pushed hard all day and we threw everything at them. We all realise that however many runs India get, we’re going to go out there pretty positively with the bat.

“If we have to chase runs on this pitch, it’s a very fast outfield and we’re good at chasing.”

While Root’s drop of Rohit was a sliding doors moment, England might also have snared both centurions had they reviewed lbw decisions given not out on the field, with Rohit on 87 and Jadeja on 93.

“It can be frustrating at times, but you have to crack on and try to create more chances,” Collingwood added.

Jadeja was shuffled up one place to number five to spare debutant Sarfaraz Khan a baptism of fire following India’s top-order wobble.

By the time Sarfaraz made his entrance, India were on a healthier 237 for four after a mammoth 204-run union between their two old stagers.

Sarfaraz poured salt into England’s wounds by taking down the tourists’ spinners and contributing 62 off 66 balls before being left high and dry by Jadeja, who turned down the single that would have brought up his 100.

Sarfaraz was well short of getting back in his crease and Jadeja reached his century from the next ball although his customary sword-swishing celebration was not as vigorous as usual.

“We had a little bit of miscommunication and that happens, it is no big deal,” Sarfaraz said, absolving his team-mate of any blame.

Rehan Ahmed remains in limbo in India although England are certain the teenage leg-spinner’s visa problem will be sorted out on Wednesday ahead of the third Test in Rajkot.

Ahmed’s single-entrance visa expired the moment he left for England’s mid-series break in the United Arab Emirates and the 19-year-old was initially red-flagged upon the team’s return to India on Monday.

England captain Ben Stokes and head coach Brendon McCullum waited with Ahmed at Hirasar Rajkot Airport as an emergency two-day visa was granted before the trio got to the team hotel separately to the group.

Ahmed trained with his team-mates at the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium on Tuesday morning and – while there is yet to be a resolution -, England seem convinced the issuing of a new visa is a formality.

“It’s not a concern,” Stokes said. “The guys who dealt with it at the airport did a really good job, given where we found ourselves. I’m confident that will be sorted.”

It is unclear whether the issue will hinder Ahmed’s chances as he tries to retain his England spot when the series, which is currently deadlocked at 1-1 after two gripping instalments, resumes on Thursday.

But it has occurred just a couple of weeks after off-spinner Shoaib Bashir was forced to miss the first Test in Hyderabad because of a paperwork snag as his Pakistani heritage led to extended checks.

Ahmed, like Bashir, was born in the UK and is of Pakistani heritage but this is a separate matter owing to an oversight on the part of the England and Wales Cricket Board.

Ahmed was already in possession of an Indian visa after being placed on standby for England’s 50-over World Cup campaign in October and November but it was not activated then because he was not required to travel.

England’s players travel on electronic visas which are not stamped in passports so the situation with Ahmed only came to light in Rajkot following England’s six-day breather in Abu Dhabi.

Ahmed – who is England’s youngest cricketer in all three formats – has taken eight wickets in the series at a respectable average of 36.37 so far and also contributed 70 runs, including a cameo 23 after being bumped up to number three in the batting order as the so-called ‘nighthawk’ in the second Test.

England’s spin options have already been hard hit by Jack Leach’s series-ending knee injury, leaving Ahmed, Bashir and Tom Hartley as the three specialist spinners, boasting six Test caps between them, with Joe Root’s part-time off-breaks becoming increasingly called upon.

“We were advised, on returning to India, that there was paperwork discrepancy with Rehan Ahmed’s visa,” an England team spokesperson said.

“The local authorities at Rajkot Airport were supportive, enabling Rehan entry on a temporary visa. The correct visa should be processed and issued in the coming days.

“He will continue to prepare with the rest of the squad ahead of the third Test.”

England captain Ben Stokes downplayed his landmark appearance against India in Rajkot this week, insisting that joining the prestigious 100 Test club was “just a number”.

Stokes is set to become the 16th Englishman to three figures on Thursday a little over a decade on from his Adelaide debut, where he memorably had a testy exchange with Australia wicketkeeper Brad Haddin.

That combative nature has been a constant in a career of stratospheric highs and crushing lows, but he is naturally averse to celebrating personal milestones, as evidenced most acutely at Headingley in 2019.

 

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On that occasion, Stokes barely acknowledged his hundred and only celebrated after hauling England to a famous victory and he stayed true to type when asked to talk up his 100th Test match.

“I guess it’s a sign of longevity,” he said, almost apologetically. “It’s just a number. Every Test is just as important as the next one. Then there’s the next one, which will be 101 – it’s just one more.

“I don’t want it to sound like I’m not thankful for the opportunities I’ve had. There will be a time when I can (reflect on what he has achieved) a bit more.

“But milestones and stuff like that – it’s not done until it’s done.

“While I’m still playing and wanting to achieve a lot, driving the team, giving individuals what I think is the best platform for them to be successful is where all my thoughts are at the moment.”

Another character trait that has been evident in Stokes the captain is his eagerness to roll the dice and risk defeat in pursuit of victory, largely paying off with six of the former and 14 of the latter.

He is therefore highly unlikely to find himself in the same situation Sir Alastair Cook did in England’s last visit to the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium in November 2016, when the tourists received some criticism for declaring too late and setting India 310 to win in a minimum of 49 overs.

With this series deadlocked at 1-1, the temptation could be to avoid defeat at all costs after losing last time out but Stokes was having none of it.

“I don’t get that much pleasure out of a draw,” Stokes said. “I’d much rather lose trying to win. But not winning doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world. Everything is just aimed towards what can we do.

“Losing always sucks but we’ve lost all (six) games trying to win them. We’ll never go to the grave not knowing if we could have done something a bit different.”

Stokes’ immediate thoughts are on whether to stick with James Anderson and a trio of callow spinners or reintroduce Mark Wood and go with two specialist fast bowlers for the first time on this tour of India.

While Wood was wicketless in the win at Hyderabad and made way for Anderson in the Visakhapatnam defeat, his express pace offers an extra dimension on a pitch renowned for being batter-friendly.

“If we were to go with two seamers the reasons why we would look at Jimmy and Woody would be I just like to have a point of difference,” Stokes said. “And India is never a three-seamer option.”

Even though Jack Leach is out of the last three Tests, Stokes will stick to his pledge not to bowl in this series following surgery on a longstanding left knee injury 11 weeks ago.

Stokes, who last bowled competitively in July last year, sent down three overs in training on Tuesday morning at what he estimated was about 70 per cent intensity.

“It’s little and often now,” the 32-year-old said. “We don’t have a plan with where I go with my intensity. It’s just how I feel at the time, but also not getting too far ahead. It was another step forward.

“But I’ve pinky promised my physio I won’t be loosening up to bowl even if everything is feeling well because that would just be a risk that’s not worth it.”

Ben Stokes joins the 100 Test club this week in the more unlikely surroundings of Rajkot as England get back to business in India following a week off.

A headline-grabbing career has brought more peaks than troughs and, here, the PA news agency looks at the England captain’s best Test moments ahead of his landmark appearance.

120 v Australia – Perth, December 2013

England were getting mauled by moustachioed menace Mitchell Johnson et al on a calamitous 2013/14 Ashes tour but Stokes was undaunted. In his second Test on a WACA pitch bursting with deep, wide cracks, the then 22-year-old earned Australia’s grudging respect with a hard-nosed fourth-innings century. England lost but months after being told he was squandering his gifts by Andy Flower amid some indiscretions on a Lions tour, Stokes’ surreptitious “I’ll show you” response came to bear in extraordinary fashion.

101 v New Zealand – Lord’s, May 2015

In and out of the side due to injuries, under-performance and a lack of role clarity, Stokes rewarded the decision to elevate him to number six in the batting order with two buccaneering innings. Ten months on from a chastening pair at HQ, Stokes followed up a rescue-act 92 with an 85-ball hundred – the quickest ever at Lord’s – before snaring Kane Williamson and Brendon McCullum with successive balls in an England win. His place in any side when fit and available has never been in doubt since then.

Six for 36 v Australia – Trent Bridge, August 2015

Stuart Broad’s eight for 15 rightly lives longer in the memory but the ‘oh my Broad’ image that summed up the 2015 Ashes was largely down to Stokes’ one-handed leaping catch in the cordon to see off Adam Voges. In Australia’s second innings, with Broad having nothing like as much impact, Stokes channelled his inner James Anderson, finding some prodigious swing, to ultimately make sure England regained the urn. Remarkably, it is the only time in his career Stokes has been part of an Ashes-winning side.

135 not out v Australia – Headingley, August 2019

Stokes’ magnum opus came six weeks after his scarcely-credible heroics in the 2019 World Cup and a year and a week after being acquitted of affray in a Bristol court case that threatened to overshadow his career. After England were skittled for a miserly 67, Stokes, perhaps seeking to atone for his loose shot, first bowled himself into the ground to take three for 56 then roused the hosts in a then national record chase of 359. Watchful at first before exploding with just number 11 Jack Leach for company, Stokes kept the Ashes alive and sent Headingley into raptures with a knock for the ages.

103 v South Africa – Emirates Old Trafford, August 2022

Despite starting his reign as England Test skipper with four wins out of four, Stokes and the so-called ‘Bazball’ methods alongside McCullum came under scrutiny when they lost to South Africa at Lord’s. England also threatened to throw away a handy position in Manchester but measured tons from Stokes – his first since assuming the captaincy – and Ben Foakes quietened any criticism. Stokes also collected a couple of top-order wickets in both the Proteas’ innings to seal a resounding win.

Ben Stokes will become the 16th Englishman to win 100 Test caps when he captains his side in Thursday’s third Test against India.

Here, the PA news agency looks at England’s century club and Stokes’ record to date.

Century club

James Anderson will hope to add to his national-record 184 Tests in Rajkot, while team-mate Joe Root ranks fourth on the list on 137 behind Stuart Broad (167) and Sir Alastair Cook (161).

Alec Stewart, Ian Bell, Graham Gooch, David Gower, Michael Atherton, Colin Cowdrey, Sir Geoff Boycott, Kevin Pietersen, Lord Ian Botham, Sir Andrew Strauss and Graham Thorpe are England’s other centurions. Barring injury, the remainder of the India series will lift Stokes alongside Botham on 102 Tests.

Cook is England’s record Test run-scorer with 12,472, with Root just over 1,000 behind as he keeps up his pursuit, while Anderson leads the wickets column on 695.

Of those among the group to have taken more than one Test wicket, only Stokes, Botham and Root have achieved the distinction of a higher average batting than bowling.

Botham averaged 33.55 for his 5,200 runs and 28.40 for his 383 wickets – the latter figure places him third on England’s all-time wickets list behind Anderson and Broad (604).

Stokes, with over 1,000 runs more than Botham at an average nearly three runs higher at 36.34, has a strong claim as England’s greatest batting all-rounder – Root averages 49.65 with the bat but a hefty 43.88 with his off-spin.

Three more wickets, to add to his 197 at 32.07, will see Stokes join the illustrious club of 16 all-rounders to date with 3,000 runs and 200 wickets in Tests.

Broad, Botham, Andrew Flintoff and Moeen Ali have achieved that feat for England – Stokes has a better batting average than any of the quartet and will rank third in bowling average.

Setting the tone

Only 11 men have made a higher Test score for England than Stokes’ 258 against South Africa in 2016, with former captain Cook having done so on two occasions.

Coming in 198 balls at a strike rate of 130 with 30 fours and 11 sixes, it was the fastest score of 250-plus in Test history and England’s fastest double century – the next-highest England Test score recorded at over a run a ball is Zak Crawley’s 189 off 182 in last summer’s Ashes.

Stokes has 13 Test centuries in all, with four five-wicket hauls including a best of six for 22 against the West Indies in 2017.

As captain he has presided over 14 wins, six defeats and only one draw as he and coach Brendon McCullum have implemented a new aggressive style of play.

England have successfully chased five fourth-inning targets over 250 in that time, including a national-record 378 against India at Edgbaston in 2022 and three of their top eight chases of all time.

Somewhat surprisingly, that 258 is one of only two Stokes centuries at over a run a ball – he made 101 off 92 against New Zealand in 2015.

Ollie Pope gushed at how Ben Stokes has “changed the game” as the England captain gears up for his 100th Test this week.

England are back in India following a break in the United Arab Emirates between the second and third Tests, with Stokes set to make his landmark appearance in Rajkot in a match that starts on Thursday.

As well as being England’s ace in the hole and pulling out all the stops when the pressure is at its peak, Stokes’ dynamic style of leadership alongside Brendon McCullum has galvanised the national side.

Stokes boasts 14 victories from 21 Tests – no one who has captained England on 10 or more occasions in the format has a better win percentage (66.67) – and his revolutionary effect was recognised by Pope.

“It’s unbelievable,” England’s vice-captain said. “For anyone to play 100 Tests is an unbelievable achievement. He’s had his highs and lows but what he’s done since he’s been captain has been amazing.

“Stokesy is not someone who likes it being all about him. He doesn’t need those accolades but away from the ground I’m sure we’ll celebrate him, get around him and think of something to do.

“He’s changed the game in a lot of respects. He just has a way of bringing out the best in himself when the team needs him the most.

“There have been so many unbelievable memories and hopefully he can play 100 more. He’s been great to watch, great to be a part of and hopefully there’ll be many more special moments in his career.”

England are a bowler light for the final three Tests after deciding against naming a replacement for slow left-armer Jack Leach, who has travelled back to the UK following a series-ending knee injury.

The sight of Stokes bowling gently in the nets in England training on Tuesday morning left locals wondering whether the 32-year-old would spring a surprise and return to all-rounder status.

But Pope poured cold water on the theory, with Stokes, who has not bowled competitively since July last year, still feeling his way back after surgery to his left knee 11 weeks ago.

“He’s just getting back to bowling and getting his knee right,” Pope said. “That’s why he had surgery – just to make sure that when he is back bowling, he’s going to be bowling quickly and as well as he can.

“I’d be surprised and I guess you never know. But I think he’s just preparing as a batter.”

Following a gripping pair of Tests in Hyderabad and Visakhapatnam that has left the series evenly poised at 1-1, England have had a six-day breather in Abu Dhabi to decompress and go again.

“It’s a nice way just to refresh,” Pope added. “The guys are energised coming into these last three Tests.

“We’ve loved every bit of this tour so far. Two competitive games of cricket that have been awesome to play in. But it was a nicely timed break to recharge the batteries.”

Rehan Ahmed has become the latest England player to run into visa problems in India but the tourists are optimistic the teenage leg-spinner will be available for the third Test in Rajkot.

The 19-year-old was initially denied entry upon the England team returning to India on Monday after a mid-series break in the United Arab Emirates because he only held a single entrance electronic visa.

The issue is different to what Shoaib Bashir encountered last month and Ahmed was granted an emergency two-day visa, allowing him to train with his England team-mates in Rajkot on Tuesday morning.

Ahmed has now applied for a multi-entrance visa and England are confident the issue will be resolved before the series, currently deadlocked at 1-1, resumes on Thursday.

“We were advised, on returning to India, that there was paperwork discrepancy with Rehan Ahmed’s visa,” an England team spokesperson said.

“The local authorities at Rajkot Airport were supportive, enabling Rehan entry on a temporary visa. The correct visa should be processed and issued in the coming days.

“He will continue to prepare with the rest of the squad ahead of the third Test.”

Bashir’s arrival was delayed because of a unforeseen snag in his paperwork, with his Pakistani heritage leading to extended checks, and meant he missed the first Test win in Hyderabad last month.

Ahmed, like Bashir, was born in the UK and is of Pakistani heritage but he was already in possession of an Indian visa after being placed on standby for England’s 50-over World Cup campaign.

That was not activated because he was not required to travel but, with all of England’s team travelling on electronic visas which are not stamped on passports, any administrative issues are harder to spot.

Ahmed, England’s youngest cricketer in all three formats, entered India for the first time ahead of the start of the series and has featured in both Tests, taking eight wickets at a decent average of 36.37.

He has also contributed 70 runs, including a cameo 23 after being bumped up to number three in the batting order as the so-called ‘nighthawk’ in the second Test, before England departed for the UAE.

Only when Ahmed had his passport scanned after England arrived at Hirasar Rajkot Airport following a chartered flight from Abu Dhabi did the oversight emerge.

England captain Ben Stokes and head coach Brendon McCullum remained with Ahmed while he was given his temporary stay and they arrived at the team hotel about an hour after the rest of the group.

Rehan Ahmed is loving life as Ben Stokes’ leg-spin wildcard, admitting he finds bowling maidens “boring” and may have struggled to find his place in a different era of English cricket.

Ahmed became the country’s youngest ever men’s Test cricketer when he claimed a five-wicket haul on debut in Karachi, but has had to wait almost 14 months for his next opportunity on turning pitches in India.

After playing a supporting role in the opening game at Hyderabad, the 19-year-old enjoyed a more central part in the second Test, claiming three wickets in each innings and volunteering himself for promotion in the batting order as the so-called ‘nighthawk’.

Spurred on by the attacking instincts of captain Stokes, Ahmed has been given full licence to make things happen without worrying about his economy rate and looks well placed to resist England’s historic aversion to wrist-spin.

“I don’t like bowling maidens. I think that’s just boring. I’ll try and change things,” he said, refreshingly honest about his role in the side.

“The leadership and the back-up we have has been very good. They just don’t care about how bad things can go, it’s always about what good you can get out of it.

“If I bowl four bad balls and get a wicket, that’s better than bowling 16 good balls in a row. I think that says more about the team and how comfortable I feel with this team.”

The story of talented English leg-spinners is a brief and largely unhappy one, with the likes of Ian Salisbury, Chris Schofield, Scott Borthwick and Matt Parkinson all failing to turn potential into a long-term place.

But the one that really got away in the Test arena is Adil Rashid: a two-format World Cup winner in white-ball cricket and record T20 wicket-taker, but owner of just 19 red-ball caps and 60 wickets.

He helped mentor Ahmed when he first emerged on the international scene and the pair are still in regular contact.

While fans may wonder how a player like Rashid would have fared under the current regime, Ahmed realises he is lucky to operating in a different environment.

“Rash was in England cricket at a different time to me,” he said.

“The way he grew up and the way he played is how England cricket was then. Leg-spinners were always felt to not be the controlling ones. Obviously he would have wanted to play more Test cricket, but the time he played didn’t allow that.

“He’s had an unbelievable career and had a huge influence on a lot of players where I’m from, he has done so much for me in cricket.

“(But) Rash grew up with more traditional leg-spin. In this new era with attacking, positive mindsets, I think I fit into this team whereas he fit into that team. It’s just two different players at two different times.”

As well as helping Ahmed with his craft, Rashid and Moeen Ali also helped pave the way in making their Muslim faith an everyday part of life in camp.

Ahmed sat out an optional training session ahead of the second Test as he was fasting and earlier excused himself from a team together that clashed with prayers.

“My faith is obviously much more important than cricket, that’s first in my life,” Ahmed said.

“As long as I’m ticking that over properly, I’m fine whatever happens in cricket. I think that’s what helps me be so calm on the field. Stokes is so good with that.

“He messaged me and said ‘come to me whenever you want about this kind of stuff, I understand it fully’ and he’s stuck by his word. Every time I pray, he is so respectful and understanding. Everyone is on this tour.”

One thing that may prove more divisive is Ahmed’s views on the squad’s favourite pastime, which will feature heavily in the coming days as they take a break in Abu Dhabi ahead of the third Test.

He added: “Golf? Nah. I’m not sure how anyone plays that. It’s a shocking sport.”

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