Ben Stokes has hit back at suggestions England should have declared earlier at Old Trafford, claiming anyone who thinks that was an option doesn’t understand cricket like he does.
- England was in control of the Old Trafford Test and would have tied the series at 2-2 with victory
- Constant rain in Manchester meant play could not continue, resulting in a draw and Australia retaining the Ashes
- Critics suggested England should have declared earlier in the Test knowing that bad weather was on the way
England was denied the chance to pursue a win in Manchester that would have kept its Ashes hopes alive, with no play available on the final day of the fourth Test due to rain.
Stokes is adamant his side played a near-perfect game in the fourth Test, after bowling Australia out for 317 in the first innings and hitting 592 in reply.
England also had Australia 4-113 after day three and 5-214 following a rain-interrupted day four, before Sunday’s frustration.
But questions have been asked about whether Stokes should have declared earlier in England’s first innings, knowing rain was coming for the final two days.
At one stage before lunch on day three, England led by 170 in the first innings but they went on to bat for an extra hour as Jonny Bairstow plundered his way to 99 not out.
It was conceivable to think the England squad could have given themselves two sessions to try to bowl Australia out for less than 170 on Friday, wrapping the game up before the rain-sodden weekend.
It is a point Stokes does not agree with.
“Regardless of what we did, we would have ended up in the same situation,” Stokes said.
“Anyone who is going to question the declaration in this game probably doesn’t understand the game as well as we do.
“It’s rained, we have got three hours of cricket in two days. I don’t think, whatever we did, we would have been able to force a result in this game.
“And that’s just unfortunately due to the weather.”
While Stokes did not regret the call, history showed England was always likely to rue going 2-0 down early in the series.
Only once has a side come from 2-0 down to win an Ashes series — Sir Donald Bradman’s Australians in 1936-37.
Manchester’s weather was partly proof of why it is so difficult to do.
England also had their chances to win the first two Tests, most notably when the hosts finished day one at Edgbaston with 8-393 before declaring and losing the match.
They lost control of the Lord’s Test through their aggressive batting in the first innings, after being 1-188 in reply to Australia’s 416 with Nathan Lyon off the field for the tourists.
But Stokes said the only regret from the opening two losses was his drop of Lyon late on the final day at Edgbaston, before the spinner and Pat Cummins hit Australia to a two-wicket victory.
“The catch that I dropped off Nathan Lyon, honestly. That’s probably the biggest (regret),” Stokes told reporters.