Ollie Pope blogs on how big a miss Ben Stokes will be for England, the team’s superb win at Emirates Old Trafford, and why he was laughing when he got out on the final day, plus his role in a great goal…
There are bigger things than cricket and it is important that Ben Stokes is able to spend time with his family – but he will be a massive miss for us for the rest of the series against Pakistan.
He is probably the best cricketer in the world at the moment, a game changer, and even if he does miss out with bat or ball, his aura on the pitch or slip catching still influences games.
To have him around is awesome but, as we showed in the previous Test, we are not reliant on one player. We have guys who step up to the mark.
Any Test match victory is special but winning in the fashion we did on Saturday does mean a bit more. I think everyone had written us off on the fourth morning and it then looked a pretty uphill task at 117-5 – if we are being completely honest, our hopes were pretty low.
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That’s not because we didn’t back our batsmen but purely because of the nature of some of the dismissals and the way the pitch was reacting with inconsistent bounce. The way Stokesy got out to one that bounced out of the rough, the way I got out to a ball that reared up and hit me on the wrist.
When I walked off I didn’t really know what to say to Chris Woakes as we passed – you almost have to laugh it off as there is not much you can do as a batter if you get a ball like I got from Shaheen Afridi.
Normally when I get out I like to think there is something I could have done but when one bounces out of nowhere and smashes you on the wrist of your top hand, there’s not much you can do.
I walked to the changing room with a nice egg on my wrist and I don’t think I have ever been as relaxed getting out in a Test match as that as I knew there was nothing I could have done. If you are getting wound up getting out like that, it’s not going to do your headspace any good.
Woakesy and Jos Buttler’s partnership from that point was unbelievable and I think the conditions gave them clarity on how they wanted to play. They knew that they were going to have to be aggressive and try to win the game before the next new ball could be taken. That gave them the opportunity to up the run rate.
Two of the best blokes around took us to victory. Woakesy and Jos are very popular within the team and I was so happy it was those two lads that turned the game.
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Whenever Woakesy comes in he seems to do a great job. He is not usually on the front page of papers but he always comes off with wickets, runs or both and we value him incredibly highly.
I guess it is frustrating for him that due to our strength in depth he does miss out at times, even after superb performances, but for us it creates healthy competition within the squad and spurs players on and gives the selectors lots of headaches.
Woakesy is known within the media as the one of the nicest lads in the world, which he is, but he is also a great laugh and has a jokey side, like when he was calling my hotel room when I was chatting to Sky Sports a day before the first Test.
Jos, too, was outstanding on the final day.
He had obviously copped a bit of criticism so to come through that shows what an amazing player he is, what an unbelievable talent he, is and how mentally strong he is. He said afterwards that he did have self-doubts but the way he bounced back was exceptional.
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He is one of those guys who, whether he has scored a hundred or five, has had a great day with the gloves or hasn’t, will be incredibly consistent as a bloke. That’s what I admire so much about him. It’s about not letting those tougher times get to you.
Dropped catches are part of cricket and I think it was a challenging wicket to keep on for the spinners as there was a lot of bounce. The edge he missed off Shan Masood is one of those where the ball either sticks or it doesn’t. You don’t have time to react to nicks all the time at that pace.
When you miss chances, either as a keeper or a fielder, it does play on your mind and the last thing you want to do is drop another one but from since I’ve been back in the side he has been fairly faultless with the gloves so I don’t think people should pile on to him too much.
When you watch Jos bat in the nets sometimes you wonder how on earth he does the things he does and he is great to bat with out in the middle. He is a calming influence and as we are both pretty positive players we are going to keep the scoreboard ticking over.
When I came in at 12-3 on that second evening, I just wanted to play my way – be busy, hit the bad balls for four and try and get singles off the good ones where possible. If you get out nicking off it doesn’t look to good but it’s a great opportunity to turn the momentum round.
I always want to rotate strike, no matter what the situation is. I try and put the pressure back on the bowler by interrupting their rhythm so they can’t bowl six balls at the same batsman. It keeps the scoreboard moving and takes pressure off you and your partner.
I haven’t actually felt that in-sync this summer due to a lack of cricket – I found some form at the backend of that West Indies series but my movements and processes weren’t quite there.
England vs Pakistan
August 13, 2020, 10:30am
Now, though, I feel like I am getting back to my best. Sometimes even a solid defence that drops the ball at your feet is a good sign things are working well. It’s often on gut feel.
That 91 against West Indies gave me confidence, a score like that takes some of the pressure off and helps you relax and I felt that against Pakistan, so hopefully I can take that into the final two Tests.
I was very happy with my assist for Mark Wood as he headed the ball into the bin during a rain break in Manchester – but it took us long enough! I certainly had a headache afterwards! It must have been about 50 goes as it wasn’t easy down at the bottom to get that finishing header.
Jimmy Anderson and myself started things off just trying to throw the ball in but then Woody and Dom Bess got involved. A lot of times the ball bounced off Bessy’s head and into the middle of the pitch so then I took the initiative to try and help the boys out down there!
Jimmy played a big part in our goal but, on a serious note, his hunger to carry on playing Test cricket, to keep taking wickets, to still have that will to win, is something us young lads can learn from.
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