There's definitely a chance, says Pope on Stokes’ bowling in the Ranchi Test against India

February 21, 2024
England’s vice-captain Ollie Pope believes there is ‘definitely a chance’ skipper Ben Stokes will take up bowling duties in the match starting on February 23.

Ranchi, Feb 21 (IANS) Ahead of the fourth Test against India, England’s vice-captain Ollie Pope believes there is ‘definitely a chance’ skipper Ben Stokes will take up bowling duties in the match starting on February 23.

Stokes has taken 197 wickets in Tests at an average of 32.07, and last bowled in the format during the second Ashes Test at Lord’s last year due to a troublesome left knee issue. After playing in the ODI World Cup in India as a specialist batter, Stokes underwent a knee surgery in November and of late, has resumed bowling in the nets, with team doctor Glen Rae watching him on at Ranchi.

After England lost the Rajkot Test to India by 434 runs to be 2-1 behind in the five-game series, Stokes had raised the chance of bowling in the series, days after saying that a possibility like that was ruled out, citing the pinky promise he made to the physio Ben Davies.

“There’s definitely a chance. He’s not confirmed it even in the changing-room, so we will see. He bowled at the batters today. We’ll see how he pulls up, and if that’s good hopefully we will see him with the ball in hand in the game,” said Pope in the press conference.

Stokes’ potentially taking up bowling means Pope will have to take charge of field placements and also of controlling his bowling overs. “I think when he’s going it’s pretty tough to get the ball out of his hand, to be honest. But I’ll chat to him before the game, see if he wants anything like that from me.”

“If he’s got full confidence in his knee, I guess you’ve got to trust the medical advice and trust his opinions as well. That’s the main thing and if he needs a bit of guidance on the pitch, then I can be someone to lean on,” he added.

With the pitch at the JSCA International Stadium having a lot of cracks already, indicating that it will aid spinners from the word go, Pope called it an interesting one. “There’s a lot of cracks. It’s very platey, and they’ve just wetted it as well, which generally dries it up. It doesn’t necessarily look like a belting wicket at the moment.”

“It kind of looks like one half is good, and then there are a lot of platey cracks. That’s how we see it at the minute. I think we will see what happens tomorrow after the Indian team has looked at the wicket, then make a decision from there.”

“At the minute, it looks like batting from the far end, it’s outside the right-hander’s off stump and then from this end, the left-hander’s off-stump. It just looks like it’s down the wicket, it’s kind of plated on one side and then the other side looks like a pretty good wicket.”

With Tom Hartley, Rehan Ahmed and Shoaib Bashir as the spinners, Pope thinks a pitch like that will also bring them heavily into the picture. “If that does a fair bit like we expect it to having looked at it, it definitely brings us into the game. If it does spin from ball one, I guess it’s an even playing field.”

“We have got some young spinners but I think they’ve bowled well on some pretty good surfaces as well so it definitely brings some wicket-taking opportunities into the game. It takes the toss a little bit out of it as well. When the ball’s doing more, your best bet is trying to hit the bowler off his length and try and get him to not bowl where he wants to bowl every ball.”



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