IND vs ENG: As India lead 1-0 in the five-match Test series, many former players have pointed out England’s struggling batting. But Joe Root’s side biggest missing piece has been the absence of all-rounder Ben Stokes who time and again has delivered match-winning spells and knocks. Interestingly, the last two times India won in England, the hosts struggled in absence of a missing all-rounder. In 1986, Ian Botham and in 2007, Andrew Flintoff. With Stokes also absent, can Virat Kohli & co repeat history?
If the last two matches are anything to go by, Virat Kohli’s Team India have dominated most of the phases. In the 1st Test, rain on Day 5 prevented India as they needed 157 runs with 9 wickets in hand to win. The 2nd Test saw Indian tail-enders script a brilliant comeback and then the pacers took the game away, winning by 151 runs. While it is difficult to say if Ben Stokes would have changed the game single-handedly, history says he could be a factor.
IND vs ENG: In 1986, when India beat England 2-0 in a three-match series, Ian Botham was serving a ban for using cannabis. England felt his absence terribly as the lower-order struggled against India’s spinners and in particular India’s all-rounder Kapil Dev. It repeated once again in 2007 when Rahul Dravid-led India beat England 1-0 and the biggest missing link was Andrew Flintoff who was nursing an injury.
IND vs ENG: How has India capitalised on England’s missing all-rounder?
- In 1986, England lost Ian Botham, who was serving a ban and they had no one in the lower-middle order to prevent slide against Kapil Dev, Chetan Sharma.
- India won the series 2-0 to record a historic series win against England at their own backyard.
- In 2007, England were in a similar situation with Andrew Flintoff recovering from an injury. England greatly missed a fourth seamer who could bat and the likes of Anil Kumble, Zaheer Khan capitalised on that.
- India won the series 1-0, settling for draws in the other two Tests.
This time, in the two Test matches, England’s top order has failed while the lower-order hasn’t made any meaningful contribution and it has been on Joe Root to fight a lone battle. Ben Stokes, who has been successful against India, could have made the difference.
IND vs ENG: How have Virat Kohli & Co taken advantage of Ben Stokes’ absence?
- In two Tests so far, England haven’t been able to prevent a slide – 1st Test, 1st Innings: lost 6 wickets for 45 runs, 2nd Test 1st innings: lost 5 wickets for 95 runs, 2nd Test 2nd Innings: 7 wickets for 53 runs.
- In 2018, Ben Stokes was tasked with handling such situations. From 62/4 in the 2nd Test in 2018, Ben Stokes scored 62 and partnered Jos Buttler for a 169-run stand to prevent a slide.
- His 14 wickets in 4 matches were also crucial why England managed a comfortable 4-1 series win against India.
With 14 wickets and 200 runs in 4 matches, Ben Stokes’ contributions made a huge difference. He was specially tasked with breaking partnerships as the fourth seamer and he did well. Furthermore, he did prevent England batting from sliding further down. In the 2nd Test in 2018 at Trent Bridge, from 62/4, Jos Buttler and Stokes stitched together a 169-run stand to keep England in the game.
But so far, England have lost six wickets for 45 runs (1st innings, 1st Test), five wickets for 95 runs (2nd Innings, 1st Test), seven wickets for 53 runs (2nd Innings, 2nd Test), pointing out the difference Stokes could have made.