LONDON: England captain Ben Stokes wants his players to use the pain of their controversial second Test defeat against Australia as fuel to mount a sensational Ashes fightback.
Stokes’ side are trailing 2-0 in the five-match series after Australia survived a brilliant innings of 155 from the England skipper to win by 43 runs at Lord’s on Sunday.
It was an extraordinary day’s play, even by the dramatic standards of the Ashes, as the match swung on the disputed dismissal of England’s Jonny Bairstow.
Chasing a Lord’s-record 371 to win, England were still in with a shout of making history when Bairstow was stumped by Alex Carey when he walked out of his crease after ducking a Cameron Green bouncer.
Cricket’s Laws showed the decision to dismiss Bairstow was correct, but it arguably went against the spirit of the game.
As chants of “same old Aussies, always cheating” echoed around the usually sedate Lord’s stands, Stokes took his frustrations out on the Australian bowlers with a brilliant innings that fell just short of carrying England to victory.
Only once before in 146 years of Test history have a team come from 2-0 down to win a five-match series, when Australia, inspired by batting great Don Bradman, did so in the 1936/37 Ashes.
But Stokes insisted his men could replicate that feat.
“We won 3-0 against Pakistan and New Zealand last year. All we’re thinking about is winning the series 3-2,” he said.
“Losing’s losing. The emotions will always be the same but when you sit back and understand where we’re at, it’s actually very exciting.
“The way in which we are playing our cricket couldn’t be more perfect for the situation we find ourselves in.
“We have to win these three games to get this urn back. We’re a team who are obviously willing to put ourselves out there and do things against the narrative.”
Stokes hopes England can feed off the energy of the notoriously raucous Headingley crowd when the third Test starts on Thursday.
The controversy surrounding Australia’s victory is sure to add an extra edge to the invective from the stands in Leeds.
“I could see it was ramping up and getting a bit vocal,” Stokes said.
“I’d never heard Lord’s like it. It was pretty mad wasn’t it? Lord’s has a reputation of not having so much noise, so it was good to hear.”
Stokes famously led England to a brilliant one-wicket Test win over Australia at Headingley with a superb 135 not out in 2019, but he said that would not be a motivating factor.
“We like playing at Headingley as a team but I don’t think the grounds that we play at next really matter. We know we’ve got to win the next three games to win the Ashes back,” he said.
Despite stump microphones picking up England bowler Stuart Broad’s stinging criticism of Carey and Australia captain Pat Cummins during the Bairstow incident, Stokes insisted there would be no lingering animosity between the teams.
“I’m not one to hold a grudge too much,” he said. “Emotions are high now. Feelings will change as the series goes on. To not have a beer and say ‘well done’ would be a shame.”
Cummins also played down the potential for further rows between the teams.
“No animosity when I spoke to Ben. I don’t think there’s anything to sort out,” he said.
“Is it going to change anything? I don’t think so for us. We will see how it plays out.”
Asked if world Test champions Australia’s reputation had been damaged by the Bairstow incident, Cummins added: “I don’t believe so, no.
“The spirit of cricket is really important. The way we have gone about it over the last few years has been fantastic. We should be really proud.”