Ben Stokes ‘devastated’ as England fall behind after opening Ashes Test defeat

An unbroken 55-run stand between Pat Cummins and Nathan Lyon saw Australia snatch victory from under England’s noses.

David Charlesworth
Wednesday 21 June 2023 07:15 BST
Ben Stokes’ England are 1-0 down in the Ashes (Mike Egerton/PA)
Ben Stokes’ England are 1-0 down in the Ashes (Mike Egerton/PA) (PA Wire)

Ben Stokes was “devastated” as England fell behind in the Ashes after a gripping climax to the first Test at Edgbaston but he was resolute that their style of play can topple Australia.

An unbroken 55-run stand between Pat Cummins and Nathan Lyon saw Australia snatch victory from under England’s noses in a dramatic denouement to an LV= Insurance series opener that ebbed and flowed.

While smarting from a two-wicket defeat leaves England with an uphill task, Stokes has seen enough from the last five days to convince him that their attacking approach can reap dividends in the weeks ahead.

The big question amid all the pre-series hype was how the philosophy styled under captain Stokes and head coach Brendon McCullum would cope with the world Test champions, but from the moment Zak Crawley thumped the first ball of the match for four, England have shown they are up for the battle ahead.

“I am devastated we’ve lost that game but in terms of what it’s done for the series, it’s hard to not be too disappointed because it has set up a great series,” Stokes said.

“It’s not a psychological blow at all.

“We’ve lost but if you look at the way we’ve played, compared to how the last few Ashes series have gone, proves what we’re capable of doing against Australia.

“Losing sucks but the way we applied ourselves literally from ball one proves we’re able to stand up to Australia.

“Even if we’re on the wrong end of the result here, we proved we can go toe-to-toe throughout the whole game against Australia. We’ve got four games left and that’s what we’re going to be concentrating on.”

One of the major talking points from the Test came with England declaring late on day one on 393 for eight – despite Joe Root flying after bringing up his first Ashes century since 2015.

But Stokes was unrepentant – reasoning there was a chance to eat into Australia’s batting, which was ultimately unsuccessful – and argued doing so may have laid the groundwork for the thrilling finale.

“I’m a captain who saw it as an opportunity to pounce on Australia,” he said. “The way in which we played and took Australia on actually allowed us to be able to do that.

“If we didn’t declare, would we have got that excitement like we did at the end? I’m not 100 per cent sure but I’m not going to be looking back at this game as what ifs. We just didn’t manage to get over the line.”

After rain wiped out the morning session, Australia resumed on 107 for three in pursuit of 281 at the 25,000 sell-out in Birmingham, where both sides seemed to be in the ascendancy at various stages.

Stokes winkled out Usman Khawaja as Australia lurched to 209 for seven then 227 for eight after Root snared Alex Carey but Cummins (44no) and Lyon (16no) defied the building tension to see Australia home.

The match-defining partnership might have been broken but Stokes was unable to hang on to what would have been a wonder catch when Lyon was on two.

Stokes admitted his thoughts drifted back to Headingley in 2019, when he and England were reprieved after Lyon flubbed a run-out chance at a crucial stage.

“It’s amazing how the world comes around and I drop that catch and then he’s not out at the end,” Stokes said. “It’s mad how things go round. It was in my hand, just didn’t managed to stick.

“It was an emotional roller coaster to be out in the middle, especially the person having to make decisions but I couldn’t be more proud of the way in which we’ve operated from the start of this game.”

The make-up of England’s bowling attack will be scrutinised with only eight days separating the end of the first Test and the start of the second at Lord’s but Stokes was non-committal about changes.

While Moeen Ali suffered a blistered spinning finger on his Test recall, limiting his impact on Tuesday, Stokes, who has had concerns about a longstanding left knee injury, was content with getting through 14 overs over the course of the Test.

“I think seven days is quite a lot of time to give everyone a good rest,” he added. “We’ll meet up again in three or four days’ time and we’ll assess how everyone’s going.

“But I put my body through more than what it’s been through over the last year which is a great sign for myself and a confidence boost for me.

“Getting through that knowing we’ve still got four games to come has given me a massive boost.”

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