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India vs England: Ben Stokes says his team has improved despite losing the series

India vs England: Ben Stokes says his team has improved despite losing the series

  • Written by Stefan Schimmelt
  • Dharamsala's chief cricket writer

Image source, Getty Images

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England have lost six of their past 11 Tests

India vs England, 5th Test

place: Himachal Pradesh CA Stadium, Dharamsala Dates: March 7-11 time: 04:00 GMT

coverage: Live text commentary on the BBC Sport website and app, with a special audio broadcast of the daily Test match on BBC Sounds

Ben Stokes says his England team “improved massively” on the tour of India, despite losing the series.

England are 3-1 down in the fifth Test and will suffer defeat in the first series under Stokes whatever the outcome in Dharamsala.

“Just because it's 3-1 right now doesn't mean we're down,” Stokes said.

“There are a lot of these things that we've made a lot of progress on as a team while we've been on this tour.”

England's success in the series opener in Hyderabad was one of their greatest wins in an overseas Test, raising hopes that Stokes' men could become the first visiting team to win a Test series in India since 2012.

But England have since suffered three successive defeats, despite having strong chances to dominate in each of the second, third and fourth Tests. Overall, England have lost six of their past 11 Tests.

The emergence of young spinners Tom Hartley and Shoaib Bashir for India was a huge success, but England's middle order was often weak. The likes of Jonny Bairstow, who will play his 100th Test in Dharamsala, and wicket-keeper Ben Fox may need a strong performance in the final Test to push their case for inclusion in the home summer.

“If you took the results by themselves, you would say, 'We're going backwards,' but we're not,” Stokes said.

“The individuals and team have improved greatly on this tour.

“The way everyone has committed to becoming a better version of themselves since the last time we played has been quite evident; everyone is fitter and it's just been a really different feeling about how we've been operating since the previous summer.

“You don't just get a chance to go and represent England, you don't get a chance to play in this team. Once you get in, you have to earn it and keep it.”

Another player who may need to perform strongly in the final Test on Thursday, if selected, is bowler Ollie Robinson.

In the cold conditions of the Himalayas, England could field three specialist fast bowlers for the first time on the tour.

Stokes described the pitch as the “wicket-seal of cricket”, meaning England could stick with the spin duo of Hartley and Bashir, but if an extra seamer was needed, Robinson would likely have to compete with the uncapped Jos Atkinson.

Robinson endured a difficult return to the side in the Fourth Test. The Sussex seamer dropped a crucial catch and was down from the ball after sustaining a back injury while making his half-century with the bat. He did not bowl at all in the second innings as India completed the victory.

“His work ethic away from the game was very good – he gave himself the best chance to be in a position to win this game for us,” Stokes said. “The thing to look at is that he was off the pitch, trying to influence the game even though he wasn't 100%.

“A lesser man would have just raised his hands and walked away without even trying.”

Some England players will meet the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibet, before training on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Stokes has confirmed that he is available to defend England at the T20 World Cup in the Caribbean and the United States in June.

He also said he intends to play at The Hundred for the first time since 2021. Stokes has been retained by Northern Superchargers and says he will be available for four or five games under new coach Andrew Flintoff.

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