Ben Stokes has spoken of the “special earnest” belief he has in his team after their audacious brand of cricket achieved a ninth 10 Test win since becoming captain and a historic 3-0 sweep of Pakistan.
Stokes and opener Ben Duckett stopped the 55 runs England needed to complete a chase of 167 on the fourth morning in Karachi, with any doubts about the score ending the night before as Duckett and Zak Crawley smashed an opening stand of 87 inside 12 overs. The tourists in one stage aim to win for three days.
England had won once in 17 Tests when Stokes and coach Brendon McCollum took over earlier this year, but their new aggressive style has since helped them beat New Zealand, India and South Africa at home and become the first team to win Group Three. -0 in Pakistan.
England’s only defeat at the time came to South Africa at Lord’s in August, but they immediately bounced back with an innings victory over the Proteas at Emirates Old Trafford in the next match.
Talking to Sky Sports Cricket Michael Atherton said after England’s eight-wicket victory in the Karachi Test, Stokes said: “The way the people go about it gives me a lot of confidence in myself.
“This is incredible to have as a team. It’s nice to have faith in yourself but when you have faith in the other 10 players around you to influence the game, it’s very special.
“If I had to select everyone, I would be here all day as at some point in this series everyone has stood up and played a match-defining role.
We have a process that we want to play in but the challenge for us in this series is the different pitches we have played in each Test match. We stuck to our game plan but adapted to bat and ball. Whoever threw the ball seemed to shoot. A lot says about the way we hit but the mentality with the ball and the commitment were top notch.
“When you take that burden off you see the players excel. I feel that if the ambition is to win and to play an entertaining brand of cricket, that will override any fear of failure.
“You make better decisions when you’re not indecisive. No one’s afraid to get out. You don’t accept exit but you accept that exit is part of beating. Releasing that fear of failure is why we get results.”
“I thought we were going to win last night after the way Zack and Ducky (Crowley and Duckett) started – they set the standard in this series.
“Even when it was a lower percentage of being able to finish it when it came out, for some reason I still had a belief that I could do it. I was at the store last night because we wanted to finish it!”
Stokes: An amazing all-round performance
“I understand what a huge accomplishment it is, winning the series without losing. It probably won’t sink in until the New Year. It was an amazing all-round performance from everyone.”
“I don’t like to look too far, but obviously I have my eyes on The Ashes in 2023.
“We will continue to grow as a team, spend more time together, try to have fun, play Test cricket with a smile on our faces, and try to win as much as possible.”
England’s incredible batting – they hit over 500 in Rawalpindi on the opening day of the series – was crucial to their victory, with the speed with which they scored their runs giving them time to take 20 wickets in each Test.
Stokes’ captaincy was also vital, from his daring declaration in the First Test to his constant aggressive and inventive pitches and clever bowling changes.
Asked where his tactics came from, Stokes said: “Instinct. I have to go with my intuition. If I go with my head too much, I’ll probably miss!”
“A lot of my decisions here have been based on what I thought was the best option at any given time. I feel as if here is the easiest circumstance to beat a few different things.
“You just have to realize how you’re going to get a wicket. You don’t have to have slip because it doesn’t look like you’re going to slip in three matches to us.
“He used that slip elsewhere to disturb the batsman visually. I think we had more leg slip than normal slip because we felt the ball was always going there.”
“Brooke was top notch, sexy Ahmed”
Stokes also reserved plenty of praise for string player Harry Brook, 18-year-old Rehan Ahmed – who became the youngest man to make five Test debuts – and head coach McCollum, with the latter also in charge. In the revival of the wonderful red ball in England.
On Brook, who plundered 468 runs across the three Tests, scoring a century in each, Stokes said: “It was unbelievable – he set Pakistan on fire the way he played. His calmness and belief at an early age are high-class.”
“Rayhan takes you back to being a kid and trying to do what you needed to do. What I liked was that the more he got into the game, the more confident he was in himself to talk to me about fielding and what he wanted the batsmen to try and do.
“Leg-spinners are an absolute gem, they can change the game and we saw that when we pushed to win. For him to have the ability he has but not come close to the final article is exciting.
“We caught a glimpse of him at number three with the bat. I’m not sure what’s better, batting or bowling. Let’s just let him get his way and not hold him back because we certainly won’t be.”
Of McCollum, Stokes added: “I didn’t realize Paz and I would be so well aligned. Sometimes they say opposites attract but maybe that’s not the right thing with captains and coaches!”
“He was unbelievable and he has to take huge amounts of credit for believing in me and my game and also instilling that belief in the players as much as I tried to do.
“He goes straight to the way he thinks and leaves no questions in anyone’s mind. As soon as his name came up before we hired the coach, I thought we needed to get him.
“I had a way that I felt would be good for English cricket going forward and I knew he was the best person in the world to help us do that.”
Finally, on the tour itself, the first for England to visit Pakistan in red-ball cricket since 2005, Stokes said: “We knew what cricket meant to Pakistan and what it meant to us to be here.
“The support we got, not only from the Parmese army, but the Pakistani fans has been amazing. The Pakistani people cheered for the game and the cricket was celebrated.
“Everyone had a great time. We came here to win but also to play an exciting brand of cricket. Coming out to our reception after the win against the home team was special, so thank you to everyone in Pakistan.”
England returned to Test action with two matches in Mother New Zealand’s McCollum in February.
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