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'If we don't believe, we're beaten already' - Ben Stokes

Stokes took three wickets after a spirited display marked by long periods of short-pitched bowling

Andrew Miller
Andrew Miller
17-Dec-2021
Ben Stokes says that if England don't believe they can save the Adelaide Test and turn around their fortunes in the Ashes, then "we're beaten already", after another chastening day with bat and ball in the second Test.
Stokes finished with figures of 3 for 113 after a spirited display with the ball, marked by lengthy periods of short-pitched bowling, most notably against Australia's centurion Marnus Labuschagne. However, his main role may yet be to come with the bat, after England limped to 17 for 2 under the floodlights, in reply to Australia's 473 for 9 declared, before a lightning strike behind the bowler's arm forced an early close to the second day's play.
"It's been a tough two days," Stokes said afterwards. "We spent a lot of time out in the field, put some overs into our legs, but it was nice to get off the field at the end and watch the guys go out and bat.
"Obviously we came off in pretty strange circumstances - I'm not sure I've been involved in the game being called off early because of lightning - but we get to turn up tomorrow in the natural light, which has looked the easiest and best time to be around the middle.
Despite the hard grind that England have endured across 150.4 overs of bowling, Stokes insisted that he had relished the scrap as he continues his return to Test cricket after a lengthy absence from the game last summer, during which time he feared he might never play at the highest level again.
"You've just got to look for dirt when you get that deep, and understand what you're playing for," he said. "I've loved every minute of it. Walking out onto the field and wearing the three lions is one of the great feelings as a cricketer.
"If you don't feel sore coming off the field, and if you don't feel sore waking up in the morning, then you've probably not done what's required of you.
"If we don't believe, we're beaten already."
Stokes has more right to feel sore than most after his tireless efforts with the ball. At Brisbane last week, he got through just 12 overs after jarring his knee while fielding. But having been reassured of no lasting damage, he's pushed himself through the pain in this Test, serving up 25 overs all told to finish as England's most successful wicket-taker in an arduous innings.
In the absence of Mark Wood, England's one genuine 90mph option within their squad, Stokes was employed as the attack's point of difference, with a sustained spell of short-pitched bowling designed to discomfort Australia's batters. The policy paid off on the first day, when David Warner carved a short ball to cover to fall for 95, while Stokes suggested it might also have played a part in the dismissal of Cameron Green, who failed to get fully forward to the full-length delivery that bowled him for 2 on the second afternoon.
"It was about trying to create a different type of environment out there for the batters," Stokes said. "It does look odd when you run and bowl 11 overs of short stuff, but in my first couple of spells I felt like I was creating quite a lot of chances and they weren't really going anywhere. It wasn't until the third spell today that we started to leak a few runs. But you can create chances and leak a few runs by trying to hit the top off as well."
If England are to claw their way back into the contest, then a lot will rest on their incumbent pairing of Joe Root and Dawid Malan, whose century stand at Brisbane was their batting high point of the tour so far. But Stokes knows he will have a key role too at No.5, after scores of 5 and 14 in the first Test, his first competitive outing for six months after he missed England's summer Test series against New Zealand and India with his broken finger.
"I didn't get anywhere near the amount of runs I would have wanted to in the first game," Stokes said, "but how I look at batting, it's not always about the runs that I score but how I felt out in the middle.
"I've felt good in the nets and I felt really good out in the middle both times, I just wasn't able to go on and get that big score. So I will be going out with the same mindset like I did in Brisbane."
Stokes added that he and his team-mates were conscious of the need to put up a stronger showing for the benefit of England's fans - those staying up through the night at home as well as those in Australia. However, he also insisted that the tragic events in Tasmania on Thursday, where five children died after a bouncy castle broke its moorings in strong winds and for which Australia's players had worn black armbands, "puts a lot of things into perspective".
"Obviously the first Test didn't go well and Australia are ahead at the moment, but we know that back home we will be getting as much support as we always do," he said. "We really appreciate it and it doesn't go unnoticed."

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket